Confiscation of Retirement Assets?

There is a lively discussion under way at the Legal Insurrection blog with a post “The Revolt of the Kulaks Has Begun.” In the comments it is suggested that the administration will come after tax-advantaged savings assets of American retirement savers.

This is dynamite. It is hard to believe the administration would overreach this way, but congressional Democrats exposed them to the charge by taking advice from Teresa Ghilarducci, a critic of the retirement savings system at the New School. In effect she suggests confiscating private accounts and supplying guaranteed government accounts in their place.

Promoting my Household Initiative Plan or something like it is one way to make the administration tell us what it really has in mind for private retirement accounts.

I have been making free-market proposals to liberalize the current rules for the 46 million IRAs, SEPs, SIMPLE and Keogh retirement accounts and permit them to invest in real estate without the heavy restrictions which pertain to them now. Retirement-minded people who are in good shape, not behind on their bills, and not struggling, could benefit from this opportunity to use retirement savings to take advantage of low real estate prices in popular retirement areas.

If you believe that the money people have contributed to their retirement accounts belongs to them, then it should be their free choice to do with as they think best, to take advantage of such opportunities as they perceive, or to bail themselves out of the trouble they are in. And if the administration thinks differently, then it would have to knock down proposals like my HIP.

Let’s speak more generally about the restrictions and penalties that apply to these accounts. They are making a terrible situation even worse by restricting liquidity. Many people are being severely penalized for tapping their retirement accounts in order to try to save their homes and credit scores. Others who are behind on their mortgages and other bills, thereby damaging their credit, are nevertheless unwilling to incur the penalties they would pay to access their money in these accounts to get current on their bills. This is just madness. For the duration of the crisis, let’s free things up, and let people access their own money in these accounts to work themselves out of trouble without penalties.

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