January 4, 2011
The U.S. isn’t the only place that’s facing a major pension fund crisis. The Christian Science Monitor has this alarming report:
People’s retirement savings are a convenient source of revenue for governments that don’t want to reduce spending or make privatizations. As most pension schemes in Europe are organised by the state, European ministers of finance have a facilitated access to the savings accumulated there, and it is only logical that they try to get a hold of this money for their own ends. In recent weeks I have noted five such attempts: Three situations concern private personal savings; two others refer to national funds.
The most striking example is Hungary, where last month the government made the citizens an offer they could not refuse. They could either remit their individual retirement savings to the state, or lose the right to the basic state pension (but still have an obligation to pay contributions for it). In this extortionate way, the government wants to gain control over $14bn of individual retirement savings.
The article goes on to detail other pension grabs in Bulgaria, Poland, France and Ireland. Obviously, this is a cautionary tale for America. If fiscal austerity becomes a real issue in the U.S. the way that it’s been reaching critical mass in Europe — don’t think that U.S. lawmakers regard your either your personal wealth or money they might owe you as sacrosanct. Government has a habit of looking out for itself.