Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where Can I Find Employers Offering Pensions?

In a rather silly tribute to what she sees as a British love of austerity, Anne Applebaum lectures,
Hardly anyone in America is talking about cuts in Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, for example, the biggest budgetary items (even though "private" pensions now look a lot safer, even when taking stock market fluctuations into account, than those who will depend entirely on a bankrupt federal budget 20 years hence).
Where exactly can I find a job that offers me a private pension? A secure one, that is. (Given her faith in private pensions, would Applebaum eliminate the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation as unnecessary?) Seriously, what country does she live in because... oh yeah, that's right, it isn't this one.

If Applebaum lived in this country, perhaps she would have noticed that Social Security cuts are very much on the table, and that the discussion recently made headlines in rather colorful terms. Medicaid benefits have been slashed across the country. Sure, Medicare reform is difficult, although the Obama Administration should get credit for going after Medicare Advantage subsidies; but when Applebaum comments, "In Britain, by contrast, everything is on the table: pensions, housing benefits, disability payments, tax breaks" it's interesting to note that her list of "everything" does not include cuts for the NHS - the budget has been "ring fenced" with some shifts in spending and plans to limit future growth. Sound familiar?

What is interesting about Applebaum's list is that she's principally rattling off benefits for the poor. She should recall from the 1990's that "welfare reform" is both popular and easy. She should be aware that Britain offer significantly more generous social support than the U.S., and that's unlikely to change even after the cuts are made.

Yes, wartime rationing had an effect on the nation, and I remember my grandmother's cupboard overflowing with boxes of sugar cubes - she was not going to go through another war without having sugar for her tea. But really, no, other than the handwriting on the wall being much more obvious, I don't sense that the British are slashing the budget because they want to show of their stiff upper lips and whatnot. If they loved austerity as much as Applebaum suggests, how does she imagine they got into their present financial crisis?

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