The essays here highlight the problems that the European pension reform process faces and how it differs from that of the United States. This timely volume will significantly enrich the debate on pension reform worldwide.
It is a long-held perception that America is a nation where the government typically stays out of day-to-day business activities. Yet the U.S. federal government is in many ways the biggest and most influential financial institution in the world, with $10 trillion in federal guarantees and loans going to the private sector. Even before recent implementation of massive interventions meant to stave off financial calamity, the federal government directly or indirectly provided significantly more credit than any of the country's largest private sector banks. And, of course, the government's credit activities have recently expanded far beyond this core of traditional programs in the face of economic crisis. What does the true picture of this sector look like, and how does it affect the overall economy?
"Uncle Sam in Pinstripes" is an accessible primer on U.S. federal lending, providing an instructive look at one of the most important interfaces between the U.S. government and its citizens as well as the transactions that result. Douglas Elliott's introductory chapter makes clear the critical importance of federal credit programs and hints at some of their complexities. The remainder of this book fills in the details --the how, what, why, and the ramifications --allowing readers of all stripes to understand the history, current state, and key policy issues surrounding federal credit provision. No picture of the U.S. economy is complete without a fuller understanding of this increasingly important sector.
There is considerable evidence that taxpayers are not receiving the value for money that they should. The author believes that a number of steps should be taken to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of federal credit programs. These are explained in the final chapter and include the following actions, among many others:
- Target borrowers more carefully. - Take into account more fully the relative risk of different loans. - Use the same budget rules for all federal credit programs. - Use risk-based discount rates for federal budget purposes. - Create a federal bank to administer all credit programs.
As the baby boom begins to withdraw from the labor force, ensuring a secure retirement income becomes an increasingly important issue, the number of people over age 65 is expected to double by 2030. That trend will continue, accompanied by worries about stock market volatility, corporate malfeasance, a rapidly changing economy, and the viability of Social Security. In Coming Up Short, two experts on retirement policy analyze 401(k) plans, the fastest-growing type of employer-sponsored pensions and a vital source of retirement income for the American middle class.Alicia Munnell and Annika Sunden chronicle the development of 401(k) plans, now the dominant form of private pensions. In accessible language, they explain how such plans work and discuss their popularity. For employees, these plans are appealing becuase they have more control over their own retirement funds, and the plans are portable. For employers, the plans are generally less costly than defined benefit plans.Despite those advantages, there are some significant downsides to 401(k) plans. These plans shift all the risk and responsibility to employees, who must decide whether to join, how much to contribute, how to invest, whether to "cash out" when changing jobs, and how to manage their nest egg in retirement. These are difficult decisions, and while in theory 401(k)s could be an effective savings vehicle for retirement, in practice many people make mistakes at every step along the way.Com ing Up Short discusses why these mistakes are made and proposes various reforms to ensure that the aging population will have adequate retirement income. Comprehensive and up-to-date, Coming Up Short is an essential resource on 401(k) plans for financial service professionals, policymakers, academics, and individuals planning for their own retirement.
Americans believe economic opportunity is as fundamental a right as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. More concerned about a level playing field for all, they worry less about the growing income and wealth disparity in our country. "Creating an Opportunity Society" examines economic opportunity in the United States and explores how to create more of it, particularly for those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.
Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill propose a concrete agenda for increasing opportunity that is cost effective, consistent with American values, and focuses on improving the lives of the young and the disadvantaged. They emphasize individual responsibility as an indispensable basis for successful policies and programs.
The authors recommend a three-pronged approach to create more opportunity in America:
- Increase education for children and youth at the preschool, K?12, and postsecondary levels
- Encourage and support work among adults
- Reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births while increasing the share of children reared by their married parents
With concern for the federal deficit in mind, Haskins and Sawhill argue for reallocating existing resources, especially from the affluent elderly to disadvantaged children and their families. The authors are optimistic that a judicious use of the nation's resources can level the playing field and produce more opportunity for all.
"Creating an Opportunity Society" offers the most complete summary available of the facts and the factors that contribute to economic opportunity. It looks at the poor, the middle class, and the rich, providing deep background data on how each group has fared in recent decades. Unfortunately, only the rich have made substantial progress, making this book a timely guide forward for anyone interested in what we can do as a society to improve the prospects for our less-advantaged families and fellow citizens.