David Weber, author of an important new book, The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor’s Last Best Weapon, writes in the New York Times about the real reason for the switch from defined benefit to defined contribution pension plans:
No issue in America today better illustrates the divergent interests of working Americans and the 1 percent than pension reform. Substantial empirical evidence shows that America’s favored retirement vehicle — the 401(k), recently renounced by its own inventors — is grossly inadequate and will leave tens of millions of Americans with insufficient retirement assets. And yet states and cities are busy converting traditional pensions into these failing 401(k)s or equivalents, to the great benefit of money managers and the finance class….We cannot understand the drive toward pension “reform” by looking only at the liability side of the balance sheet: how much we owe workers and what it will cost to pay them. We must look at the asset side, too: how these pensions invest their money, and their ability to exercise shareholder voice that the rest of us lack.
If the Kochs and their allies succeed in smashing and scattering these last remaining pension funds into millions of 401(k)s, they will do more than just undermine the retirement security of millions of Americans. They will silence their economic voice. The pension reform drive should be understood, at least in part, as a campaign of economic voter suppression. And it is coming, soon, to a jurisdiction near you, if it isn’t there already.