America's safety net

Re "The prophet of pensions," Opinion, May 11

Three cheers for Roger Lowenstein's rallying call for us to worry about retirement income insecurity.

I am a pension economist who, after 26 years of trying to untwist the pretzel of programs designed to secure retirement, cried, "Uncle!" Enough of tax breaks for commercial retail savings accounts. After 25 years of these money-sucking loopholes, 50% of workers still have no pensions.

I have proposed a universal 401(k)-type plan that supplements Social Security. The government invests the money, guarantees an inflation-indexed return and gives $600 to every worker, every year, to help fund the guaranteed retirement account.

It's simple, it doesn't cost the Treasury any more than we are paying now, and everyone will be able to replace 70% of the pre-retirement earnings after 40-year careers.

Teresa Ghilarducci

New York

The writer is the Bernard L. and Irene Schwartz chair in economic policy analysis at the New School for Social Research.

Lowenstein promotes Walter Reuther's 80-year-old idea for a social safety net in America, like universal healthcare and public pensions.

Social safety networks seem to work in small, mostly homogenous countries, but not in a huge country like the U.S.

Larger European countries such as France, Germany and Italy have moved to the right in national elections in the last few years. Their citizens are beginning to realize that they can't rely on big government. The bigger the government, the bigger the bureaucracy -- and the waste and inflexibility that goes with it.

Today's young Americans are not relying on Social Security or buying their employer's stock anymore. Individual 401(k)s with diverse portfolios are becoming the standard.

In the great American spirit, young people are taking charge of their own destinies.

Allan Pilger

Mission Viejo

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