Rick McGahey – The Politics of the Debt Limit Debate
Professor of Professional Practice in Public Policy and Economics, Urban Policy 
Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy

Teresa Ghilarducci – Social Security and Medicare Are Not the Problem
Director, Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) Department Chair and Professor of Economics and Policy 
The New School for Social Research

Darrick Hamilton – Obama's Challenge: Addressing Inequality and Asset Building
Associate Professor, Urban Policy 
Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy

David Plotke – The Past and Future of Political Polarization
Professor of Political Science
The New School for Social Research

I discussed the history of retirement security in the U.S. and the current status of 401K-based retirement with Tom Ashbrook on NPR's On Point, "Is the 401(k) Working?" I described the fundamental flaw in the current system, "You're on your own." The possibilities for government, especially state and local, to help provide additional retirement funding for its citizens, is a major area of focus for new SCEPA research, through measures such as state-level Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs).

In two recent articles, the Governing Institute cites my work about the looming pension crisis for workers in the U.S. On June 14, 201 in the article "America's Looming Pension Shock," Governing's Director Mark Funkhouser discusses the effects of decreasing public pensions for workers as they reach retirement. He writes, "but Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School in New York City and author of "When I'm Sixty-Four: the Plot against Pensions and the Plan to Save Them," would tell these government leaders that cuts in government workers' pension benefits are contributing to another impending crisis that they should begin to think about." He continues by bringing attention to my  Guaranteed Retirement Accounts plan as a potential solution.

On June 28, 2012 in "The Very Public Private-Sector Retirement Problem," Governing's Penelope Lemov continues the discussion by writing about the inadequacy of 401(k) plans in providing a secure retirement income in the face of pension shortfalls and potential state-level solutions to address the crisis. She draws attention to recent legislation in California introduced by Senator de Leon that would allow workers without work-based retirement accounts, like a traditional defined benefit pension or a defined contribution 401(k), to automatically be included in a state-run plan. The plan has already been approved by the California State Senate, and if it passes through the State Assembly, I predict that a handful of states will follow suit quickly. New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut are already considering similar plans.

I was interviewed on WNYC's the Takeaway about my recent opinion column the New York Times "Our Ridiculous Approach to Retirement." In a segment titled "Has the American Retirement System Failed?" I discuss the findings of SCEPA's Guaranteeing Retirement Income Project - the implications of our inadequate retirement savings system based on individual retirement accounts, such as the 40(k), and what to do about it. Even with adequate planning under the current system, a period of sickness can wipe out any health or security a person has. Even with financial literacy, events can overtake people. This inevitably leads to a greater risk of falling into poverty for retired Americans.

The inadequacy of the current system of retirement savings has gotten worse since the Great Recession. The risk of poverty filtering up to the middle class as the recession wiped out lots of near-retirees (ages 55 to 65) savings and work history. The spector we all saw of more and more retired americans moving into poverty has actually been moved up about 20 or 30 years.

For the past 30 years, the American system of retirement savings experiemented with people saving on their own. The experiment hasn't work. Tthe solution doesn't fall on people knowing more or being more realistic, we need an expanded social security system that expects people to just be human beings, live their lives responsibly... We can't expect human being to act like spreadsheets. This generation of retirees or near retirees can still be helped with include social security plus.

I joined American Public Media's Marketplace in a segment titled, "The 401(k) System Doesn't Work." I discuss how our current, individual-based voluntary system for retirement doesn't work because it expects individuals to know when when they will lose their job, get sick, get divorced, lose a spouse and eventually die. The coming retirement income security crisis was not caused by a set of isolated individual behaviors; the system was simply never realistic. The solution to the problem lies in government-mandated, guaranteed retirement accounts on top of Social Security. See the Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRA) plan for more information.

The New York Times published an article by reporter Steven Greenhouse, "Should the 401(k) Be Reformed or Replaced?" Greenhouse writes, "Every good retirement system needs to have adequate accumulation for individuals, the money needs to be invested appropriately and the payout needs to meet the needs of retirees for life. Unfortunately, 401(k)'s fail in all three categories." It's inefficient to provide $80 billion in annual tax breaks for 401(k)s, a sum that largely benefits high-income individuals likely to save without a tax incentive.

The article cites my proposal calling for the creation of Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs) as gaining support. The plan would require both employee and employer contributions into a federal retirement fund that would earn a 3 percent, inflation-adjusted minimum return pegged to the long-term growth rate of the U.S. economy. Account balances would be converted into annuities that would provide a life-long stream of income in retirement.

CNN ran an op-ed I co-authored with Rick McGahey, “Americans are Not Moochers.” We dispel Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s claim that 47 percent of Americans expect government programs to provide for their basic needs.

Digging deeper into why 47 percent don't pay federal income tax, what we find are many former taxpayers: twenty-two percent are the elderly, living mostly on Social Security, a benefit they got by working and paying payroll taxes. Others are unemployed or are paid close to the minimum wage, so they don't have enough income to file any taxes.

What is missing from the discussion is the fact that the lack of progressivity in the U.S. tax system. While in theory, higher income individuals pay a higher tax rate, it is the middle class that pays the highest percentage of their income in total taxes due to lower tax for capital gains and larger deductions that reduce taxes for the highest earners.

Romney’s suggestion that older Americans and low-income households feel entitled to government assistance is a theory that does not fit the data. In fact, less than 4% of the U.S. population has received a year’s worth of income-based assistance programs such as food stamps, and more than 50 percent of older people looking for work are too young to receive social security, leaving them close to the poverty line.