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.

ric edelman
I joined the Ric Edelman Show on November 6th to address the rampant misinformation about pension reform proposals and 401(k)s. A financial advisor, Ric is concerned about the resulting panic from these dangerous rumors. Listen to his clarification that there is no proposal to seize current 401(k) or IRA assests.

On June 29, 2010, I became a member of the Board of Directors of YRC Worldwide Inc., one of the largest transportation and logistics service providers in the world.

I joined the board as part of an agreement between the company and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to prepare the company to resume payments to union pension plans. Payments were suspended last year while the company addressed larger solvency issues.

As a labor economist specializing in retirement security, I’m participating in this bellweather case to help one of the oldest and largest union companies maintain direct benefit pension plans while remaining competitive in an increasingly challenging marketplace.