Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Will The American Worker Do?

Tennessee - like Wisconsin and Indiana - is joining the battle against collective bargaining by unions, claiming it is a measure to reduce government spending. The state's teachers, already over-burdened with Federal demands and decreasing state revenues, certainly appear to be the first to find how bad of shape the American economy really is in.

And Tennessee, as in many other states, is pondering dropping guaranteed retirement benefits for those fortunate enough to have joined the program and instead switch to a 401(k) plan.

A recent Wall Street Journal reports, however, that those 401(k) plans won't really provide for much, while the program was worth trillions of dollars to money managers and financial planners:

Initially envisioned as a way for management-level people to put aside extra retirement money, the 401(k) was embraced by big companies in the 1980s as a replacement for costly pension funds. Suddenly, they were able to transfer the burden of funding employees' retirement to the employees themselves. Employees had control over their savings, and were able carry them to new jobs.

They were a gold mine for money-management firms. In 30 years, the 401(k) went from a small program to a multi-trillion-dollar industry supporting thousands of financial planners and money managers.

But a 401(k) also requires steady, significant savings. And unlike corporate pension plans, which are guaranteed by the U.S. government, 401(k) plans have no such backstop.

The government and employers aren't going to pay more for people's retirements. Unless people begin saving earlier and contributing more to their 401(k) plans, advisers say, they are destined to hit retirement age with too little money."

It's clear that for decades now, an individual's salary and benefits have been on dead end roads - salaries remain flat, health care costs exploded, and retirement funds shriveled in the economic collapse.

I understand the anger of many in Wisconsin and Tennessee, who see enormous gaps between what an individual can create financially with income and benefits and what state-backed employees can create. But rather than wanting everyone to pay more - why aren't they demanding that private sectors offer the same advantages? Do government plans get a massive break because companies then seek some returns through legislation, which is the one thing a private sector company cannot do - make laws?

Southern Beale has been quite eloquent on this topic lately:

"It doesn't make sense unless your entire worldview is based on the idea that everything is peachy when workers are slaves to their employers, that all of the power should be handed up to big business and workers should be silent and take what lumps of coal they are given. You know, I get why billionaire corporate elites think this way, but I don't get why anyone else does."

The job market is a bloody mess, salaries for the middle class aren't middle class salaries, retirement is becoming more and more elusive, hacking away at how much government spends will surely make millions realize that government spending has been the one thing keeping personal and state finances stay afloat, and negotiations between workers and owners has stalled. And those who are seeking jobs - no one wants to hire the unemployed.

I'm beginning to think that I better drop all my current plans and get licensed as a government lobbyist, as that's the one job safe from cutbacks and since everyone is arguing louder and longer about every aspect of private and public life. Oops, wait, their spending is winding down, to only about 3 and a half billion a year. Seems the one hope for lobbyists and government is to continue arguing so they can all keep their jobs.

What will the American worker do?

BONUS: Graphs depict depressing state of American jobs and income, such as the following depiction of what people think about wealth, where the money actually is, and what some would like income levels to be:

1 comment:

  1. Teri Gaddy9:22 AM

    Ditto on the gov't lobbyist job. I went back to college for a Health Info. Technology. That plus 25 years experience as an admin. assistant and I don't even get a call for an interview on all the job applications that I put out there.

    They don't want to hire Mom's who took off from work to raise their kids.

    Lets start our own business, Joe. I need a job.