In response to today's release of the unemployment numbers for November, Rick McGahey and I published an op-ed in the Washington Post's Outlook section, "5 Myths about the Unemployed."

With the current debate surrounding the upcoming 'fiscal cliff, "let's take a look at the misconceptions that often arise when the unemployed take center stage in Washington...

1. People who receive unemployment benefits are slow to search for work.
2. Americans without jobs are hurt by immigrant labor.
3. Older workers are clinging to their jobs, hurting jobless younger Americans.
4. Onerous regulations cause jobs to disappear.

5. Discouraged workers drop out of the labor force and never return.

We are stuck in a slow recovery. Congress needs to extend emergency benefits again, but most important, it needs to enact more economic stimulus to help create jobs that will drive down our excessively high unemployment rates." posted my response to IBM's decision to contribute to employees' retirement funds only once a year.

"IBM looks better than most companies because most companies are whacking their workers' retirement plans or don't sponsor any at all. GM offered its salaried, white-collar workers a lump sum -- the worst way to get a retirement account because people spend a lump sum too fast -- instead of an annuity. Ford will follow GM's example next year. Fortunately, very few auto managers and workers are taking up such an offer; they must know an annuity is more valuable.

What is there to stop companies from ending retirement accounts altogether? Nothing.

Unions represent less than 11% of the private sector workforce and the unemployment rate is high enough that anyone who has a job feels lucky to have a job. I don't see anything on the horizon that will encourage companies to maintain or improve retirement programs at the workplace.

Political leadership and bravery is needed to call out the failure of the voluntary retirement system and to secure retirement income and savings for all American workers."

Are we really fighting over Social Security privatization and reductions again!? A recent Wall Street Journal article by former Reagan advisor and Harvard professor Martin Feldstein has ginned up the debate.

BUT, sound the horns, I agree with conservative economist Martin Feldstein, but only on his main point. Cutting and privatizing Social Security is a bad idea, but we need to supplement Social Security. I call universal accounts that have guaranteed returns.

New York TimesI was excited to contribute to the New York Times "Room for Debate " blog on April 11th to discuss the growing insecurity of American's retirement. As part of a series on "The Sorry Lot of the Risk-Averse Saver," I ask why savers can't have the same deal that Federal Reserve employees do? The unintended victims of low interest rates are a particular kind of saver whose major source of income comes from interest rates on bank accounts and other safe assets whose returns are linked to Federal Reserve policies. 

urban instituteOn Tuesday, April 5th, I participated in a panel at the Urban Institute titled "Can We Boost Retirement Security for Low-Income Workers?" I discussed my proposal for Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs) and how it would help low-income workers retire. Fellow panelists included Barbara Butrica, senior research associate, Program on Retirement Policy at the Urban Institute; Mark Iwry, deputy assistant secretary for retirement and health policy, U.S. Department of the Treasury; David John, senior research fellow, Heritage Foundation and Sheila Zedlewski, Institute fellow, Income and Benefits Policy Center, Urban Institute. 

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.