In the LA Times today, Josh McGee makes a commonsense observation about the retirement crisis: “To qualify as a crisis, the situation today should be dramatically different than in past decades.” But there’s compelling evidence that nothing much has changed at all. Sure, we rely more on 401(k) accounts and less on old-school pensions, but the actual amount we save for retirement doesn’t seem to have changed much. The “crisis,” as near as I can tell, is mostly an invention of Wall Street firms, which churn out an endless supply of “studies” with scary headlines but not much in the way of facts on the inside.

This might not matter so much except that it distracts us from some real problems:

Many aspects of our retirement system need to improve, chief among them the large underfunding of Social Security and state and local pension systems. Policymakers and other advocates should also find ways to help more people achieve a secure retirement by enhancing Social Security benefits for low-income workers, improving retirement plan coverage and savings rates, and increasing the availability of lifetime payment options in retirement.

Raising a furor over a nonexistent retirement crisis is diverting attention away from these and other important issues. We need to get beyond the doomsday approach to retirement savings policy so that we can pragmatically tackle the real issues at hand — and leave the next generation of American workers with a more stable retirement system.

I’d add to this that we need to do something about long-term nursing costs for retirees, which can bankrupt middle-class families in less than a year. Personally, I’d expand Medicare to cover it and be done with it. Have any of the Democratic candidates for president proposed this? It’s not only good policy, but also good politics since it would attract the votes of middle-class retirees.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate