Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"mommy, what's a pension?"

"oh pensions were myths that people in the 20th century believed in. they thought that the money taken out of their hard earned paycheck every week would guarantee that they'd be taken care of in their old age, when they no longer were able to work."
"and it didn't?"
"no dear. you see, people at that time also believed in corporations and governments when they said that all would be well."
"yes dear?"
"why are people so stupid?"

i'm sorry, i just can't help myself. every time i turn around, some corporation or some CEO is selling their soul and cheating people out of the rest of their lives or another government official is being accused of some scandal and the government is funneling more money into fighting oversees instead of taking care of the people here at home that need it. (if our country goes to shit while we fight for "democracy" oversees, what is left for those soldiers to come home to?)

even if the corporate executives don't get away with it (because of those meddling kids), it's no consolation to those who will now have to work until they keel over and die. a lot of times, people's retirement money is all wrapped up in the company's stocks and when the company starts to crash, the corporate execs put a selling freeze on the stock in order to try to buoy the sinking ship - of course, execs who want to sell can do so if they like. and so these people watch helplessly as their lifesavings dwindle with their hopes any ability to support themselves in old age.

with the aging baby-boomers (set to start to retire in 2010) and the failure of corporations to be able to keep accounting books out of dumpsters, america is facing a pension crisis. but america is not the only country fearing difficulties in the up coming years as "fewer workers are having to support more retired people" because people are living longer and birth rates are in decline. click here to read how some other countries are dealing with the pension crisis.

but still america's corporations are sucking up whatever souls can be bought and finding that everyone has a price, especially the law. in the mid-1800's the corporation took advantage of a new amendment and emerged as a legal "person", but how can a corporation who's pure motivation is the bottom line feel the moral pressure of conscience? how can you try a whole corporation? what kind of person is a corporation anyways? i know i've brought this up before, but for a good look into these and more questions about the dominant institutions in US society, watch The Corporation - watch and be amazed.

but there's a new trend in corporate crime: "Corporations that commit securities and accounting fraud can now expect to get sweetheart deals from the Justice Department, and they don't face public exposure for their misdeeds." (from Crime without Conviction - Democracy Now!, Dec. 29th, 2005) as long as the corporation serves up a CEO or CFO or two, the corporation itself can get away scott-free. again corporate lawyers are twisting the deferred sentencing policy that the US Justice Department implicated mostly for juvenile crimes. and why not right? from a "legal person" to "not legally responsible" in a few fancy steps.

but hallelujah! i have found religion. brothers and sisters, follow your fish to Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop-Shopping! there is hope for this country afterall! take back your main streets from the malls and amusement parks! free your hearts from the cold grips of consumerism! realize that you encourage these corporations to take away your soul when you serve up your money apathetically on a platter!!

ASK QUESTIONS! GET INVOLVED! they will tell you that america's economy will crash if you don't support these huge mega-corporations. they will tell you that if you don't consume then you support terrorism and all sorts of horrible things! but look at these corporations you are supporting! look at the businesses that are gone because of these places that treat their own employees with contempt and their consumers with barely controlled amusement! and ask yourself if you believe what you are being told...

thank you
(p.s. Happy New Year!!!)

7 little fish:

Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

i was such a consumer this holiday season, too--it makes me cringe a little.

i love the "Beatitudes of Buylessness", by the way.

2:07 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

all soup-box antics aside, i think it's ok to consume and be consumed in the product delivery ritual, afterall that is the american dream: to make enough money to buy pretty things and cool things and fast cars and fun vacations - and no one should take away your dreams but you... just beware and be aware of who you are shoving your money at - that's all - just a little glimpse at where those little green pieces of the soul are floating off to...

2:17 PM  
Blogger phylos swam up to say...

Capitalism's worst nightmare is that we stop consuming. More of us need to realise that where and how we spend our money is far more effective a political weapon than who we vote for. Look at how companies only started taking environmental concerns seriously when people started to buy environment friendly products.
The biggest problem within pensions and financial services generally is the lack of understanding about you are buying. It suits the system though as the right questions are not asked and people do not understand where the fault lays when things go wrong. When equity markets started to drop in early 2001, insurance companies remained heavily invested in equities despite clear signs that the market was overheating. They have since blamed the downturn on 9/11 to hide their own incompetence. And they've gotten away with it.
I've been working in financial services for 8 years and hove seen some shocking abuses which, since i've been working in a compliance environment i've been trying to change. None of it would have happened if people knew what they were getting into. Sadly for every genuine complaint there are 5 people trying it on. It is wearing.

My own pension plan? I smoke and drink.

3:23 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

More of us need to realise that where and how we spend our money is far more effective a political weapon than who we vote for

hallelujah! hear hear! somehow, phylos, i just knew this would get you up and singing!

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous swam up to say...

Happy New Year, Mysfit and Jenn See.

I believe that the pension crisis is associated mainly with Defined Benefit Plans, in which a corporation must predict how much money it will need to fund pensions in the future. There isn't full funding now. Hence the games. Defined Contribution Plans, like 401(k) plans, are different. In those, the money is set aside now. What it will be worth in the future depends on investment performance. I don't think those can be easily raided. Caveat, I'm not a pension lawyer, so my knowledge of pension law and ERISA is limited.

1:16 PM  
Blogger phylos swam up to say...

i just knew this would get you up and singing you play the tune and i'll make the words up as we go along!

In the UK anyway, the main issue with defined benefit schemes has been that during the good times, employers took contribution breaks or increased pensions in payment by more that the cost of living (laudable but foolish) rather than look at the economic cycle and put money aside for the bad times. So pensioners of the future pay for the mistakes of the past and the people who made the mistakes walk away. They have their EPPs, their SIPPs etc to keep the wolf from the door in retirement, screw the little people.

I have read that there is more money invested in UK pensions than in the rest of Europe combined so we shouldn't have a problem. With DC schemes you have (at the moment) to buy an annuity. You swap your lump sum for a guaranteed income for life. Annuity rates are criminally low, below base interest rates and therefore below the minimum return you would expect to see on the sum without eroding the capital. And when you die the annuity provider keeps the lump sum. If however, say 50% of this lump sum were returned to the family (and 50% to the taxman) to be used to provide a good head start for the pensioner's dependents, in a couple of generations there would be lots of money sloshing around in lots of pension funds and there would be no pensions crisis. It's simplistic, but I think the basic idea would work. Radical thinking like this makes me a dangerous socialist though. Ignore me.

4:34 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

everytime i turn around and now there's a new scandal... Bush will be donating $6,000 to charity because Abramoff raised over $100,000 for his campaign - i don't know how much it costs to run, but this seems more of an insult, more of a gesture than a decent move - but then maybe i'm just a bit biased

10:09 AM  

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