- On Capitol Hill
- On Wall Street
- In the Press
- Policy Reform Work
Our projects are designed to empower policy makers to create positive change. With a focus on collaboration and outreach, we provide original, standards-based research on key policy issues.
SCEPA joined with the Economic Policy Institute on Capitol Hill to brief congressional staff and policy experts on tax expenditures, or incentives given through the tax code without scrutiny by Congress.
SCEPA economists are working on the prospects for a more progressive economic order to emerge from the shock of the recession. They have published papers and documents that place current events in a longer-term context as well as policy proposals to deal with short-term concerns. They are also documenting the emerging discussion of how the discipline of economics is reacting to the Great Recession and the questioning of conventional economic analysis.
Lance Taylor, a SCEPA Faculty Fellow, presents an overview of his new book, Maynard’s Revenge, in a Google Tech Talk.
The book, published this November by Harvard University Press, is a timely analysis of mainstream macroeconomics, posing the need for a more useful and realistic economic analysis that can provide a better understanding of the ongoing global financial and economic crisis.
The government spends $143 billion through tax breaks in an effort to expand pension coverage and security. Yet, over half of the American workforce does not have a pension. Retirement insecurity hurts business plans, workers’ lives and retiree well-being. Reform is needed.
SCEPA’s Guaranteeing Retirement Income Project, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and in collaboration with Demos and the Economic Policy Institute, has a plan to guarantee safe and secure retirement income for all Americans.
New York City Comptroller John C. Liu today joined SCEPA Director Dr. Teresa Ghilarducci, a nationally renowned expert on pension issues, to announce a new pension plan for the city. NYC Personal Retirement Accounts (PRAs) will help provide retirement coverage for the nearly two million workers in New York City without access to retirement benefits through their employers.
The NYC PRA proposal is based on Ghilarducci's State GRA plan that is now being considered by the California state legislature. The plan would pool employee and employer contributions into retirement funds that would be managed and invested by the Bureau of Asset Management (BAM), a unit of the New York City Comptroller's Office. BAM is responsible for overseeing the investments of New York City's five employee pension funds.
Because benefits from Social Security average only about $1,200 per month, many American workers rely on employer-sponsored retirement plans to supplement their income in their senior years. These retirement plans have played a vital role in reducing the risk of lowered standards of living and poverty during retirement—but recent research has shown that employers are becoming less likely to offer them.
A January 2012 report by the New York City Comptroller's Office and the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis found that between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of employers in New York City sponsoring a retirement plan for any of their employees fell by 8 percentage points, from 48% to 40%. As a result, a growing group of New Yorkers is at risk of facing significant economic hardship in retirement. Currently, more than one-third (36%) of households in which the head is near retirement age (55-64 years old) will have to subsist almost entirely—and more than 50% primarily—on Social Security income, or will not be able to retire at all due to having liquid assets of less than $10,000.
In workplaces where employers still offer retirement benefits, plans are most commonly defined contribution (DC) plans, where each worker has an individual account such as a 401(k). Many DC plans charge high fees that eat away at returns, require workers to choose from a complicated menu of investment options, and are vulnerable to painful losses in bear markets. Since most retirees do not convert their lump-sum DC savings into annuities, they also risk prematurely exhausting their assets.
Nearly two million private sector workers in New York City do not have access to a retirement plan through their employer. For workplaces where no retirement plan currently exists, New York City Personal Retirement Accounts (NYC PRA) would pool employee and employer contributions into professionally-managed retirement funds, significantly boosting retirement income for participating workers.
WHAT THE NYC PRA OFFERS PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYEES:
- Full portability.
- Low fees due to economies of scale.
- Higher returns from professionally managed investments.
- Reduced risk of outliving retirement savings by providing a lifetime annuity.
- A significant supplement to Social Security. In some cases, employees would experience a more than 50% increase in retirement income.
- Guaranteed employer match.
- Automatic enrollment with the ability to opt-out at any time.
- Self-employed workers would be allowed to participate.
WHAT THE NYC PRA OFFERS EMPLOYERS:
- The ability to offer retirement benefits to their workers at a low cost.
- A choice between offering their own employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a defined benefit or a 401(k) plan, and enrolling employees in the NYC PRA.
- Legal indemnity from fiduciary responsibility and benefits insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
WHAT THE NYC PRA OFFERS TAXPAYERS:
- Retirement benefits without reliance on taxpayer dollars.
- Potential government budgetary savings by lowering the burden on social service agencies to provide for seniors who lack retirement income.
A March 21, 2012 Time article, What Will Replace the 401(k)?, goes into some of the reasons why 401k retirement plans have been insufficient vehicles for an adequate retirement. Dan Kadlec quotes Teresa Ghilarducci's New York Times op-ed piece, Don't Cut Pensions, Expand Them, that argues for the creation of State GRAs. This plan gives workers who currently lack access to a retirement plan through work the option to invest in a retirement plan administered by the state pension fund.
"Workers would still need to choose to contribute. They would still have to decide how to convert their next egg to an income stream. But market risks would be less and with lower investment costs returns would be higher. That's a start."