I like to flatter myself with the notion that Ragebot has some non-US readers. And so it may come as a surprise that retirement fills many of us here in Bush’s “Ownership Society” with a certain sense of dread. Though we have a quaint, quasi-state sponsored system know as Social Security, the plain fact is that, for any of us beyond the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, Social Security probably won’t be around. Moreover, the kind of comprehensive, ‘defined-benefit’ retirement plan (what most people would call a ‘pension’) is exceedingly rare in the US these days. All that’s left are ‘defined contribution’ plans that allow most, but not all, of us to save for our own retirement tax-free. If we fail to put away the money or make poor investment choices, well…that’s our own problem.
But here’s the thing, access to decent retirement savings plan in this free-market paradise depends largely on the what kind of worker you are. Are you a company man…company woman? Well then you probably get to take advantage of a 401K or 403B that allows you to sequester around $15,000/year of your income pre-tax. In other words, your retirement dollars are not taxed by the Feds and investment gains grow tax-deferred. Your company may even provide matching funds as a benefit.
But…if your self employed, a part-time worker, seasonal employee, contract employee, or work for a small business, all you get is a paltry $5000 yearly contribution to an individual retirement account.
Where’s the god-damned equity in that?
This country supposedly values entrepreneurial spirit. Yet when it comes to planning for retirement, our government says: “You want to go it alone? Well then you better be successful, cause we’re going to screw you.” Should we find that strange? Not really. Though the United States was supposedly built on the notion of individualism, what we see today is corporatism given preference at every level of government—from tax policies to environmental regulation—and the real irony is that the broad, stable job base that once bolstered an expanding middle-class has been sacrificed in favor of a small core of financial service jobs that benefit (and benefit greatly) a very small slice of the working populace. So in a not so subtle way our government is saying that the only way to ensure a comfortable retirement is to shackle oneself to a low-pay, low-skill job that, at least, has decent retirement benefits.
Sort of like religion, huh? Sacrifice now for the chance of comfort later.