It wasn’t too long ago that many in the private sector who worked for a paycheck had benefits that included a secure retirement plan. Like government employees today, they knew if they stayed with their employer long enough they were guaranteed a secure retirement that, when coupled with Social Security, would enable them to live with dignity until the grim reaper arrives.
But, those days are gone. Increasingly private sector employers strive for growth in profits and a reduction in costs. One of the costs that are so often cut or even eliminated has to do with employees, especially the benefits paid to employees. Reduced costs lead to improved profits, and when corporate boards measure CEO performance by means of profit growth, short-sighted cost cutting measures can produce a profit bubble.
Private sector employers like IBM and United Airlines have eliminated their pension plans, substituting 401k’s to which both employer and employee contribute. Often under the guise that the employees can manage their own retirement savings in such plans, there is no commitment from the employer that any of that money will be there when the employee retires, much less that it will be adequate to fund the employee’s retirement.
President George W. Bush advanced a concept during his Presidency that some or all of Social Security should be privatized. This is code for empowering Wall Street to get its hands on that money and reap big commissions and for eliminating the security people who pay into Social Security have. Can you imagine what the status of Social Security would be today had this privatization occurred? Just like the 401K plans that many workers have, major losses would have occurred and retirement would seem only a dream.
It seems popular today to attack those who still have a secure retirement plan – whether corporate elite, public sector employees or whomever – seeking to see their retirement made less secure and at a reduced level. Rather than seek to engage in a race to the bottom by taking away retirement benefits that those fortunate people have, why aren’t the rest of us mad as hell at what has happened to our retirement security and the fact that neither political party seems interested in doing a darn thing about it? How about a race to the top instead of a race to the bottom?