Obama's Plan to Snatch Your Savings
In his first term, Obama managed to get his paws on health care, banking, energy, student loans, the auto business, and more. Now he has his sights set on your 401(k).
The left has had its eye on retirement savings for years, but so far takeover attempts have been rebuffed. One egregious attempt was the proposal, following the 2010 financial crisis, to "safeguard" retirement savings by requiring that they be rolled over into Treasury bonds. Had this legislation succeeded, it would have appropriated all or part of the retirement savings of millions of Americans. The funds would have been used to finance further expansion of government. In return, savers would have received a promissory note from the federal government similar that issued by the Social Security Trust Fund.
Needless to say, most investors were not keen to convert their savings into Treasury obligations -- or, to be more precise, into an unsecured note promising a return approximating that of Treasury bonds. That is because, as with every other endeavor, government's management of retirement savings (aka Social Security) has been a disaster.
Those who believe that Social Security has done a good job of investing their savings are greatly mistaken. Over the past 200 years, the real, inflation-adjusted return of the U.S. stock market has been 7%. Had one invested $100,000 in the U.S. market in 1802, one's total return after inflation (or that of oneself and one's descendants) would have been more than $100 billion. By comparison, investment in government Treasury bills would have yielded approximately $50 million. (Figures are extrapolated from John C. Bogle's Common Sense on Mutual Funds.)
Despite its 2010 failure to take over retirement savings, the left has not given up. As reported in WND, officials at the U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments continue discussions aimed at channeling private savings into Treasury obligations via a so-called "Automatic IRA." Once it has forced workers and employers to contribute to Automatic IRAs, and eventually forced existing savings into government obligations as well, government would control much of the investment capital in America. The free market will cease to exist.
Perhaps in support of that goal, Dodd-Frank legislation of 2010 established the Office of Financial Research (OFR), which recently issued a report suggesting that mutual funds may pose a risk to financial stability. At several points in the report, the authors suggest that many aspects of the financial system are not at present highly regulated and that the risks of these unregulated private transactions are unknown. The implication seems to be that greater government scrutiny is called for.
Once it is established that mutual funds pose a risk to financial stability, government will likely proceed on its merry way, with thousands of pages of regulations bringing those funds, and the savings they manage, under the thumb of government. It is only a short step from regulation to appropriation, whether by seizure via regulation or by mandating an investment in "safe" government obligations.
OFR is a bureaucracy charged with the task of sniffing out systemic risk and passing along its findings to the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). The chairman of that august body is none other than Jacob Lew, Obama's secretary of the treasury. This is the same Jacob Lew who was employed as chief operating officer at Citigroup Alternative Investments (CAI) during the financial crisis. CAI reportedly incurred significant losses during the financial crisis. As COO of that division of Citigroup, Lew would not seem to be an ideal candidate to chair a committee on Financial Stability -- much less the person to be put in charge of America's retirement savings.
It is of course a travesty to suggest, as Dodd-Frank did, that the private sector needs strong regulation in the first place. It was not Wall Street that was responsible for the housing crisis and subsequent global financial crisis; it was government. Beginning with the Clinton administration and its allies in Congress, government forced financial institutions to extend subprime loans to undocumented borrowers in the name of affordable housing. Now those same regulators want to seize your retirement savings on the pretext that government can more wisely manage risk.
What actions will FSOC take once it has determined that private savings via mutual funds and other accounts comprise a "systemic risk"? Presumably, it will lend support to the attempt to convert at least part of those savings into "less risky" government obligations. Those savers will receive an extremely risky promise of a return of capital with little if any appreciation. Meanwhile, over the course of decades, during which their private capital would otherwise have been compounding at higher rates, their savings would be "put to work" to fund the expansion of government via mammoth welfare programs designed to secure votes, further takeovers of the economy, and the wholesale extinction of liberty.
That is the reality, I believe, behind the innocuous-sounding Office of Financial Research and its report on the supposed risk to the financial system underlying mutual funds. It is an important cog in this administration's insidious scheme to destroy capitalism and convert America into a socialist state.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books on American politics and culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2013).