Monday, January 03, 2011

Government raids on private pensions

European countries facing massive deficits are starting to look towards people's pension funds for the money they need. Here are some examples of how those countries are taking people's retirement funds to pay for their general purpose government spending.
The most striking example is Hungary, where last month the government made the citizens an offer they could not refuse. They could either remit their individual retirement savings to the state, or lose the right to the basic state pension (but still have an obligation to pay contributions for it). In this extortionate way, the government wants to gain control over $14bn of individual retirement savings....

The fourth example is Ireland. In 2001, the National Pension Reserve Fund was brought into existence for the purpose of supporting pensions of the Irish people in the years 2025-2050. The scheme was also supposed to provide for the pensions of some public sector employees (mainly university staff). However, in March 2009, the Irish government earmarked €4bn from this fund for rescuing banks. In November 2010, the remaining savings of €2.5bn was seized to support the bailout of the rest of the country.

The final example is France. In November, the French parliament decided to earmark €33bn from the national reserve pension fund FRR to reduce the short-term pension scheme deficit. In this way, the retirement savings intended for the years 2020-2040 will be used earlier, that is in the years 2011-2024, and the government will spend the saved up resources on other purposes.
Of course, this is just stealing from Pierre to pay Paul. The bill will come due soon down the road. What hope is there that there will be funds sitting around to pay back those "liberated" funds?

And we've been doing the same thing all along here in the United States. There is no Social Security trust fund - today's contributions go to pay for today's retirees with the excess going to pay for present-day spending. All the Social Security fund has is a bunch of IOU statements. And where is the money to pay back going to come from?

At least when we control our own retirement funds, we can be the ones to decide if we want to raid our savings to pay for present needs. When the government runs the show, we have no control at all.