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Secure Retirement for All Americans

  • By
  • Steven Hill,
  • New America Foundation
August 16, 2010

For more and more Americans, the dream of a secure retirement has become increasingly threatened. The Great Recession has taken its toll on a retirement system which has been in place in the United States since WWII. Retirement was conceived as a "three-legged stool," with the three legs being Social Security, pensions and personal savings centered around homeownership.

Amid State Pension Funding Crises, Joining Social Security Becomes an Option

  • By
  • Lauren Damme,
  • New America Foundation
August 4, 2010

American retirement security, even prior to the Great Recession, was in bad shape. The downturn has only exacerbated previously-existing structural problems, such as an over-reliance on home values and the troubled transition from defined-benefit to defined-contribution retirement plans, as we mentioned in a previous Talking Points article. 

Retiring Your Worries

August 2, 2010

We all should've started saving for retirement yesterday. We know this, yet most of us can barely keep our spending in line with our incomes. And when we try to start saving, we are either overwhelmed with options (best case scenario) or with figures that spell inevitable doom.

Renewable Energy Cannot Drive the Recovery

  • By
  • Samuel Sherraden,
  • New America Foundation
July 28, 2010

The promotion of the renewable energy industry is central to the Recovery Act and the Obama administration's broader economic recovery program, but it is unlikely to create enough jobs or have a large enough domestic multiplier effect to contribute significantly to the economic recovery. It reflects an ambition to transform the economy into a green energy leader of the 21st century and tackle climate change. But these investments are a questionable short- or medium-term generator of growth and jobs.

Economic Insecurity in America

July 20, 2010

Hot on the heels of our recent event featuring Gary Rivlin and his new book about the rise of the alternative financial sector, Broke, USA, we're sponsoring another event this week at New America. Thursday, July 22nd from 10AM until 11:30AM: 

Economic Security at Risk: Introducing the First Integrated Measure of Americans’ Economic Insecurity

Public Affluence, Private Squalor

  • By
  • Mark Paul,
  • Micah Weinberg,
  • New America Foundation
July 20, 2010

The financial crisis has shaken the foundations of retirement security in both the private and public sectors, and nowhere more than in California. Generous public pension promises are straining the finances of cities and counties while private sector workers have little prospect of secure retirement.  The contrast between the guaranteed and increasingly expensive pensions and retiree health benefits enjoyed by most public workers in California and the less secure (and often missing) retirement plans of private-sector workers has touched off pension envy.

The Dignity Voucher Program

  • By
  • Michael Lind,
  • Lauren Damme,
  • New America Foundation
July 15, 2010

The United States faces two immense challenges: prolonged unemployment and an aging population. To meet the needs of the elderly while creating jobs for low-skilled workers, Michael Lind and Lauren Damme propose the Dignity Voucher program, an innovative system of service care vouchers for the elderly.

Shining Light on Regulatory Nominees

July 14, 2010
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As we await the final passage of the Dodd Frank financial reform bill, I remain convinced that the bill creates a necessary but not sufficient basis for meaningful reform. This is because at many turns, the bill opts for discretion rather than dictates. As my colleague Justin King and Travis Plunkett of the Consumer Federation of America discuss here, regulatory authority is consolidated and expanded but specific actions are left undefined. This means there is potential and promise but few guarantees.

The new set of regulators running both the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will have to act aggressively in policing Wall Street and Main Street. As I have said before, effective oversight requires a blend of empowerment, competence, and vigilance. Oversight agencies have to resist the formation of cozy relationships with industry. Historically, avoiding the dangerous phenomenon of regulatory capture is achieved through strong political will and leadership.
This was one of the themes of our discussion yesterday, and Tim Fernholz followed up with this article on the importance of vetting the incoming regulators. He points out the contrast between the high-stakes politicking which surrounds Supreme Court nominations with the typically below-the-radar process of confirming financial regulators. Tim writes:
But the hoopla around the nomination process -- frequently cited as a failure of our democracy -- does ensure that the president and Congress take judicial appointments and their political consequences seriously. Regulatory appointees deserve the same scrutiny and public attention -- as much as the Court matters, regulators play a more immediate role in our economy.
The current stakes couldn't be higher: Congress is about to pass the Dodd-Frank bill, financial-reform legislation that grants regulators the power to break up banks, restrict derivatives, limit risk, and even liquidate failing banks. Ensuring that regulators will use those powers, especially in the face of regulatory capture and deep industry influence, begins with vetting the leaders of the regulatory agencies.
I agree. Yet it’s also worth noting that leadership qualities can be difficult to ascertain before conflicts emerge. Some leaders rise unexpectedly from the trenches. They use their knowledge, gained over time, of policy matters and the political process to exert authority. But it is useful to have a gameplan, and this is where the vetting process comes in. Getting prospective regulators to outline their goals, objectives, and potential strategies is a good idea because it gets the reform process moving.
I would especially like the inaugural nominee to head up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to outline their strategy for rolling out this potentially impactful entity. I’ve seen a number of names floated to lead this effort already. If the Administration decides to pass on giving the post to Elizabeth Warren, I might like them tap Treasury official Michael Barr. But since I know there are great people scattered all over the country doing great work in this area, there is a good chance they will name someone I have never heard of. This will only raise the importance of getting the nominee on the record to identify a plan of action for this very consequential work. Sometimes a spotlight can help set the stage for the rest of the show.

The Danger of Long-Term Structural Unemployment

  • By
  • Sherle R. Schwenninger,
  • Lauren Damme,
  • New America Foundation
July 12, 2010

The current debate over job creation versus fiscal restraint may prove to be the most decisive debate about America’s future in the post-bubble era. Which side prevails will determine the shape of our economy and society for years to come. Deficit hawks often cite the fear that at some point in the future the market will lose faith in the federal government’s creditworthiness with supposedly severe consequences, but against this distant (and in our view improbable) danger, they tend to ignore the damage caused by the lost output, incomes, and tax revenue that results from weak eco

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