Give the Washington Post an economics lesson

Washington Post writer Michelle Singletary has a column today that is so ridiculous it defies belief.

Now I should note that Michelle is not always terrible.  She usually writes with advice for the “common folk:” no impulse buying, save, don’t get into debt.  But today’s column is the far end of stupid.

Her column provides a wide range of statistics, all of which point to the conclusion that Americans “can’t afford to retire.”

So there you have it.  if you want to be secure for retirement and your savings are nonexistent or going slow just work longer into your senior years, right?

Not necessarily so, says the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).  Many baby boomers who delay their retirement past age 65 still won’t have enough income to cover their basic retirement expenses and uninsured health-care costs.

Recent research by EBRI  found that even if workers delay retirement into their 80s, there is still a chance they will not have enough money in retirement.

And Michelle’s advice on how we can save ourselves?

So folks (old and young), it always comes back to the same tired, but always prudent, advice.  Save as soon as you can and as much as you can if you want to retire with enough resources to meet your basic needs and then some.

I’d like to suggest that FDL pups write to Michelle [she lists her email,, at the end of her column and invites input] and point out the fallacy of her thinking.  Here’s my letter:

Dear Ms. Singletary,

While your column of July 6 provided the scary facts pointing to the conclusion that Americans can’t afford to retire — apparently ever, except those who are very rich — you recommended the wrong responses to this situation:  working into our 80s and “save as much as you can and as soon as you can.”

Ms. Singletary, this is foolish advice on a number of grounds:

1) “Work into our 80’s”?  That might be feasible for those in comfy office jobs in Washington DC, but for farmers, factory workers, waitresses, oil field workers — anyone who does hard manual labor which destroys his/her body, “working into your 80’s” — or even your 70s — is a cruel, unrealistic joke.  And age and illness are going to take a toll on even those office workers, limiting their ability to work that long.

2) “Save as much as we can.”  As Seth Meyers and Amy Pohler might say, “Really?????  Really???? Save as much as we can?  And put it in a 401(k) that gets decimated by the rich Wall Street gamblers?  Use savings to buy a house — one comfortably within our means — so that we can enter retirement “under water” on our mortgage after the NEXT housing crash?  Put our savings into a bank account paying less than .5% interest, and less than the rate of inflation?  Really???”

Let me suggest to you a few better options for people — and the country — to assure an affordable retirement:

***work ceaselessly to get single payer health care passed.  You know, Ms. Singletary, that health care costs are the greatest threat to retirement security, both because of the costs during retirement, and because a medical emergency prior to retirement can wipe out a family’s savings, and even drive it into bankruptcy.  The watered-down, dishonest “health care reform” that Obama promoted does almost nothing to contain costs, and gives the pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance companies free rein to raise prices.

***fight tirelessly against the criminal reduction of social security benefits.  At the same time, pressure for a lifting of the “cap” — the income level at which social security taxes stop being withheld.  This simple move would make the program solvent far into the future.  And while you’re at it, resist this stupidity that “fixing social security” would have any effect on the deficit!!

***support programs that contain energy costs.  Weatherizing homes, building public transit, establishing renewable energy sources all will reduce the amount of money energy costs drain from  budgets — both the budgets of the elderly and the budgets of those trying to “save” for retirement.

***push for comprehensive regulation of all elements of the financial industry: banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, real estate.  The destruction of Glass-Steagall and wild west activities of all of these participants destroyed the assets that would have helped Americans retire comfortably.  Go after the real criminals, and quit blaming the victims.

There are many more useful suggestions that might be put forth to help people have a catfood-free retirement.  I’ll bet if you opened up your column and requested such input, you’d get some valuable advice.

Such a move would be more worthy of you that this ridiculous “work until you’re 80″ and “save a lot” advice you’re peddling now.  Really, it’s beneath you, and unfair to the readers you seek to serve.

Comments are closed.