Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Bad Retirement Plan

What an irony that the Supreme Court just decided that workers can sue for losses in their 401(k). According to the Wall Street Journal, "recent cases have included allegations that employers offered participants unwise investment choices, or allowed investment managers to charge participants unreasonably high fees."

In 1960, the Supreme Court ruled that individuals have no claim on any of the money they pay into the Social Security system. They cannot claim that money as a property right. They cannot sue the government for mismanagement. They cannot sue for excessive administrative fees or unwise investment choices. In fact, they have no absolute right to any benefit at all.

The Supreme Court said, "To engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of 'accrued property rights' would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands."

Or, in the words of P.J. O'Rourke, " Unfortunate people who scrutinize the Social Security Trust Fund discover two facts: It's not there. It's not theirs."

Yet another case of a double standard of justice: a strict one for the private sector, and a lax one for the public sector.

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