The notion of government raiding personal retirement accounts (IRAs, 401K, etc.) for funds may seem extreme…but other governments have done it. Argentina did in 2008, Ireland has indicated it might [and the U.S. might well do so as it’s] financial crisis worsens. This article puts forth reasons why it is possible they would undertake such a grab or ‘confiscation’ of your retirement accounts and how they likely would go about implementing such an event. Words: 700
So says ”Monty Pelerin” (a pseudonym derived from The Monty Pelerin Society) in edited excerpts from his original article* as posted at www.economicnoise.com .
Lorimer Wilson, editor of www.munKNEE.com (Your Key to Making Money!), has edited the article below for length and clarity – see Editor’s Note at the bottom of the page. This paragraph must be included in any article re-posting to avoid copyright infringement.
Pelerin goes on to say, in part:
Surely the U.S. would never do so. Actually, there is little basis for assuming they would not – and factual evidence they would.
Here are three good reasons to believe they would:
- Financial Ratios: The U.S. financial ratios are arguably as bad as the weakest countries in Europe. Unlike Europe the U.S. government has shown no willingness to meaningfully cut government spending and/or balance the budget. Europe has signaled austerity programs, although time will determine whether they adhere to such programs.
- Rule of Law: All modern governments believe they are above the law. They justify violation of the law on the grounds it is necessary for the “good of the nation.” The U.S. government has frequently demonstrated that property rights should not stand in the way of public policy. Abuses of eminent domain are numerous. The automotive bailout was a flagrant example. Not only was the bailout without legal precedent, U.S. bankruptcy law was violated in order to reward unions at the expense of bondholders.
- Behavior Pattern: The U.S. government has a despicable record with regard to honoring retirement obligations. The government raided the Social Security trust fund so that politicians could spend at higher levels. That continuing raid put Social Security in a liquidity crisis that should not have occurred for another couple of decades. President Clinton and Congress reneged on the promise that Social Security benefits would never be taxed. Now Treasury Secretary Geithner routinely raids public pension plans in order to allow government to continue spending.
Most politicians in the U.S. believe (or behave as if they believe) they can continue to kick the spending can further down the road. Apparently many believe the spending/debt problem will somehow magically go away or at least metastasize after they have left government. Unfortunately, the problem is not going away and will get much worse unless political courage and will is found to enact substantial spending cuts.
Why Raid IRAs?
The simple answer was provided by famed bank robber Willie Sutton: “that is where the money is.”
Total market capitalization of the U.S. stock market is about $16 trillion and 40% of that is estimated to reside in IRAs and 401Ks. They are big, visible, vulnerable and mostly immobile targets. This $6 trillion, if it were grabbed in some fashion, would satisfy the next 4 – 6 years of government deficits. Whatever can be used from IRAs lessens the amounts needed from sources 1 and 2 above.
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Before proceeding, it should be noted that the term “IRA” as generally used in this article generally refers to Individual Retirement Accounts and self-directed retirement accounts such as 401Ks. Many of the comments pertain to both even though the IRA abbreviation is used.
How Might Government Go After This Money?
There are innumerable ways. Here is some speculation regarding what might happen.
- It is unlikely that government confiscates IRA funds, at least directly. That is likely too big a step, at least as a first move.
- More likely government mandates that a percentage of IRA funds be invested in Treasury securities. The percentage would start out small and then likely increase as government insolvency worsened.
Let’s imagine a scenario. After proper citizen conditioning, the government would require that all IRAs must be at least 20% invested in Treasuries. The rationale would be that we must all do our share in assisting the country out of its economic hardship. Those with IRAs certainly are better off than those without. Therefore it is only fair that they invest in the future of their country.
The reason to enact such legislation is that markets are driving up the costs of borrowing for the government. By forcing investments from existing IRA funds, the government achieves two objectives:
- It reduces the amounts necessary to raise in capital markets and/or
- It reduces the amount of new quantitative easing necessary.
Although unnecessary, a special series of Treasury bonds called “Patriot Bonds” could be created.
- These bonds would be the only ones that counted for IRAs and could have lower interest rates than traditional Treasuries. If so, you would be coerced into funding the government by purchasing bonds for more than the market values them because, after all, you are a patriot and one of the” winners in life’s lottery” so it is the least you can do.
- Over time the required percentage would be raised to, say 40 or 60 or even 100% as financial conditions worsen. Finally the government defaults, making whatever portion of your IRA represented by government securities worthless.
In effect, that part of your IRA has been confiscated by government.
Is This Possible?
Those who believe our government is too honorable to raid private retirement accounts better wake up! The seriously dangerous and wounded animal we know as government is fighting for its survival. It will do anything short of dying, reducing spending or revealing itself as the Ponzi scheme it truly is.
Your notions of integrity, law and morality do not apply to this animal. The biggest, meanest man in town is trying to escape death and will use whatever means possible. Rightly or wrongly, he believes you are his antidote and he is going after whatever he can get.
One hurdle to preventing government from taking such action might be the stock market. The shift in asset allocations required in retirement accounts would presumably be detrimental to the stock market. Whether it would crash or not is moot. Any such action would certainly reduce its value, which might be the best protection retirees have.
Unless government spending is reduced to the point that new debt grows slower than GDP, most retirement accounts will diminish dramatically. This conclusion is independent of whether government raids your IRA account. Hyperinflation will eventually result from continued quantitative easing (printing of money). That will destroy most savings and all fixed income obligations like bonds and pensions whether these funds are in or out of IRA accounts.
Things are going to get ugly. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Editor’s Note: The above article may have been edited ([ ]), abridged (…), and reformatted (including the title, some sub-titles and bold/italics emphases) for the sake of clarity and brevity to ensure a fast and easy read. The article’s views and conclusions are unaltered and no personal comments have been included to maintain the integrity of the original article.
Will the laws and rules in place to protect individuals in their attempt to set something aside for retirement be safeguarded by the representatives elected to advocate for them in Washington? Will the principles and moral integrity of the political class keep them from appropriating the trillions of dollars held in 401k’s and IRA’s? I’m not so sure! Words: 1207
Hank Paulson, the Goldman Sachs bankster/US Treasury Secretary, who deregulated the financial system, caused a world crisis that wrecked the world financial system is writing in the New York Times urging that the mess he caused be fixed by taking away from working Americans the Social Security and Medicare for which they have paid in earmarked taxes all their working lives. Wall Street’s approach to the poor has always been to drive them deeper into the ground. Words: 777
Mandatory IRAs as proposed by the Obama Administration is just the 1st step in stealth nationalization and forced investment of our retirement benefits to support the treasury debt market! [As such,] every American with substantial retirement assets must [begin now to] protect themselves from having to become buyers of last resort for US treasury obligations. [Let me explain.] Words: 6349
The Obama administration is “taking the first steps to confiscate retirement dollars,” according to Dr. Jerome Corsi who predicts that the end result will be retirees with 401(k) plans holding near-worthless government debt “that will be paid off in a devalued currency worth … pennies on the dollar.” Words: 839
“If one believes that the deployment of Guaranteed Retirement Accounts are reasonably probable”, Blasi maintains that “then the remaining action item in such a scenario would be to coax the public into personally assuming the debt the rest of the world was refusing to accept,” and asks: “If the beliefs of many regarding activities conducted by ‘The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets’ (Plunge Protection Team) are sound, could not this same entity be utilized for such theoretical events as those described? Frankly, the possibility that such an initiative might be needed to rescue the Treasury market does add an additional, and considerable, threat to the equity markets.” Words: 1052
Some physical gold, silver, platinum and palladium bullion assets, in addition to traditional paper assets, can be part of your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or Roth account and they can be bought and sold with no tax consequence until you move money out of the account. [This short articles reveals just what bullion assets can, and cannot, be included.] Words: 573