I co-authored a paper that delves into the public-policy debate about public-sector unionism and collective bargaining. "The debate largely centers on the extent to which public employee unions have contributed to this crisis through the pay and benefits they have negotiated for public employees. The role of government as employer is connected in this debate to the role of government as a taxing authority and provider of public services. These roles are often claimed to be in conflict with one another — that is, governments as employers are seen as not exercising the same due diligence in setting pay and benefits as private-sector employers. The research evidence indicates, however, that these claims about public employment are based on incomplete and in some cases inaccurate understanding."

New York TimesThe New York Times asked me to weigh in on the latest Room For Debate blog question: Move Public Employees Into 401(k)s? 401(k) plans are bad deal for taxpayers. Dollar for dollar, a traditional pension plan yields more pension benefits than do 401(k) plans because 401(k) management and investment fees are three times higher. And professionals who manage money in pooled pension funds usually get higher returns than workers who manage their own 401(k) accounts. The only clear winners when pensions switch over to the 401(k) plans are brokers and bankers.

New York Times Magazine coverAs virtually all states face budget crises, issues of pensions have risen to the forefront. Although there is much that can be done by states to improve and expand pensions for public and private sector workers, current battles over state worker rights, budget crises, and pensions are muddying the issues and facts.

The Feb.28th New York Times Magazine has helpful information scattered throughout an admiring profile of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie has won a lot of national attention for his attacks on New Jersey's public unions, especially teachers, but the Times article brushes past several key issues, contributing to the one-sided and partial nature of the national debate on public pensions.

American ProspectI wrote a piece for the March 11th issue of The American Prospect, which features a special report on "America's Endangered Middle Class; Why Saving it is Ground Zero of American Politics." 

The report features a comprehensive review of the state of affairs affecting the middle class, including culture, economy, politics, and education, among others. I was proud to join contributors including E.J. Dionne, Thedad Skocpol, Robert Kuttner, Laurence Mishel, and Heather Bousey.

I write about the collapse of secure retirement and what needs to be done to save middle class men and women - who have worked all their lives - from poverty in their golden years.

Over half of workers have no pension plan. Of those who do, only 20 percent have traditional plans that provide a guaranteed benefit, while the other 80 percent have 401(k)-type plans that shift all the risks to the retiree. In 2009, the account balance for the average-income household with a 401(k) plan was only about $67,000. Even the oldest workers in the highest-earning households, of $100,000 annual income and over, have on average only about $173,000, which yields a lifetime monthly income of just $500.

Envy is a celebrity deadly sin, many philosophers think it's the worst. Joseph Epstein writes in Envy, "Envy clouds thought, clobbers generosity, precludes any hope of serenity, and ends in shriveling the heart."

Jealous is intensely felt, you are jealous of what someone has. Envy is cold and sneaky, you are envious for who someone is, not just for what they have. Jealousy about the pensions of government workers spurs you to fight for your own pensions. Envy would spur you to spitefully lobby to cut their pensions. A dose of jealousy helps you; envy hurts all.

The envy machine is cranked up.

Report coverMillions of Americans lost their retirement savings in the recent financial crisis due to the current system’s susceptibility to market volatility, with 401(k) accounts proving particularly vulnerable. On November 10, I joined with Demos, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and the Pension Rights center to release a research report that documents the failure of these 401(k)-type accounts to provide secure and equitable retirement—and make recommendations to create a truly reliable system.

I was interviewed for Newsweek’s “Reinventing Retirement” issue to address retirement in a post-recession world. In short, run a projection and assume a zero rate of return on investments.