Added by on 2008-12-01

If you picked a job 26 years ago based on the idea that someday you’d retire to warm sunshine and easy trade-winds, you’re in for a difficult surprise. Like a first time marathon runner that relied on the last 7 miles being flat and easy, coming up on a sign that warned of a course change up a mountainous ravine and a tornado warnings, that surprise may not hold a happy ending to your story. MSN Money reminds us of the taxpayer obligation that short funded pensions might bring home for the holidays. Scared yet? You will be.

It’s a scene from the movie “Wall Street” where Gordon Gekko talks about breaking up “Blue Star Airlines” (which Blue Horseshoe loved, as I recall), which featured some interesting notes that highlighted the raiders of the day: “Of course the beauty of this deal is the over-funded pension. Gekko makes 75 million dollars there. 15 million buys him the minimum annuity for 6,000 employees and he walks away with the rest – I figure he’ll clear 60-70 million dollars. Not bad for a month’s work.” Many of the companies that were bought in the 80s by Milken’s junk bond machine featured over funded pensions and alternative assets or divisions that could be sold “piece-meal” for a premium to market price (break-up value).

Who knows if the raiders, greenmailers and junk bond disciples caused a weakness in the pensions of the companies around the world, or if the 20 levels of fees that are syphoned from investment capital to run the honed machinery of Wall Street  resulted in what we see today. Pensions don’t have money to meet the promises they’ve made. 

It isn’t that pensions are an entitlement, only that you’re entitled to get what you pay for. The problem lies in the integrity of the system. When people make decisions in their youths on what to spend their lives doing, they are induced to buy, work and live based on the promises made to them. If you pick working at a company because that company has “benefits,” (pension and healthcare insurance), you should get those things, until you are informed that you won’t be getting them anymore, and you consent to that change or elect to work elsewhere. Everyone, everywhere is entitled to “informed consent.”

Additionally, for all the regulation and monitoring the government does in the securities industry and banking, you would think that there would be rules that protected people from having pensions taken away like a David Copperfield illusion, but there aren’t. According to a study completed by Credit Suisse, 340 of the Fortune 500™ have underfunded pensions, that’s almost 70%. Not really a problem unless we’re responsible, which of course we are. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is a federal government creation that doesn’t get any government funding, but relies on insurance premiums…Wait a moment, wasn’t that Fannie Mae’s song and dance? 

People have no money. In no uncertain terms. The vast majority of American’s live month to month, with most believing that Social Security and pension money will be paid to them when they retire. Many counted their homes as their primary source of wealth, homes that today have little or no equity (even those that do will ultimately see issues in the resale market for years ahead). Credit card and other debt, combined with taxpayer’s share of government debt takes about half the income of Americans. 
Here’s the current rundown (numbers are approximations):

$10.7 Trillion in government debt (up to $15 Trillion, including promises to resolve shortfalls in Banking and Investment banking)
$20 Trillion dollar shortfall in Social Security Trust (Heritage Foundation) (some say up to $42 Trillion)

Pension liabilities that are $1-10 Trillion dollars

Continued and projected budget deficits reaching $1 Trillion annually for the next 5-10 years. 

It’s a combination issue; we spend too much and do not have politicians willing to resolve the issue. The failure of fiat currency is always “hyperinflation,” a condition where the currency loses value at such a precipitous rate that it becomes worthless.

Give our money back now. Don’t spend it on things we didn’t agree to. Stop pretending our deficit is only $1.2 trillion by masking the proper amount in the smoke and mirrors of stripping our retirement funds away to buy bullets. I’m looking forward to shining a flashlight onto horrors like this for the next couple of years until people start caring about their money, their future and their country. Stop taking 15.3% out in the name of FICA and Medicare, unless you have plans to give those things to me.

 
Be careful, be watchful and Good luck!.

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