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From the Newsfeed: Your 401(k)

February 20, 2011

Sometimes the Google News feed on my desktop can produce good things. Of course, I’m talking about articles that don’t involve Lindsay Lohan’s recent sins. The other day I got these two articles on the same feed:

1) A post called “Retiring boomers find 401(k) plans fall short (Wall Street Journal)” from a Seattle blog that summarized a recent Wall Street Journal article. Highlights included: “people with six-figure 401(k) accounts, Social Security and pensions might be tens of thousands of dollars short of what they need to live on in retirement” and “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.” The WSJ piece has a great photo of two old, white people seemingly lost on some dirt road (it’s a metaphor – that or they were lost).

2) The other piece was from Faux: “Tea Party Faces Off with Walker Opponents in Wisconsin Budget Battle.” There was a short intro: “Tea Party leaders carried signs that read “Your Gravy Train is Over” to back Gov. Scott Walker, who wants to cut state workers pay and benefits to plug a $3.6 billion budget hole,” followed by God himself in a video (Breitbart).

What a wonderful juxtaposition! The Tea Party, or as I like to call them, Goldman Sach’s Foot Soldiers (c) (seriously, I’ll sue you if you use that), wants your pension and benefits gutted, so you too can work until your 70! Not, let’s do what’s best for everybody and make sure we all get to retire at a responsible age and be allowed to see a doctor occasionally for a reasonable price. No, let’s lower everyone’s standard of living, well, except for people, who work at Goldman Sachs. I’m sure there are historical parallels, but it’s certainly surprising to see a movement grounded solely in the concept of Schadenfreude.

Before writing this I saw a short segment on international CNN here in Kyiv. A CNN analyst (oxymoron, I know) listed some figures about “unions” in America, and then fielded some loaded anti-union questions from an anchor (“Is is true unions hate America AND want to rape your daughter?”). Amazingly, thrown in there with the usual distorted union pay figures, she also presented a number about how the top 1% of Americans have seen their salaries grow exponentially over the last thirty years. She was incapable of tying this to any of the other numbers involved (she’s not being paid to make arguments!), though she presumably wanted to say something about “inequality.” I found it funny how it was lost on her how union membership has dropped off a cliff over the last thirty years – the same period of time that has seen inequality grow steadily – yet, no connection whatsoever for her, despite the fact she was literally standing in front of some useful sets of data. But then again, you’re not paid to think critically at CNN, you’re paid to stand in front of big screens, quote your guests, field questions from asinine anchors, present two sides to every story (including things like torture and murder) and never, never question authority.

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