US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

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Praise for Harkin Proposal to Solve the Retirement Crisis

Friday, January 31, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—This week, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, unveiled the USA Retirement Funds Act, bold new legislation to tackle the growing retirement crisis and rebuild the private pension system. Policy experts and advocates have weighed in to applaud Harkin’s plan to rebuild the private pension system and improve retirement security for the middle class.

Read more about the USA Retirement Funds Act in thebill snapshottwo-page summary, and list of frequently asked questions.

“SEIU firmly believes that all Americans should be able to enjoy a dignified retirement after a lifetime of hard work and playing by the rules. We think Senator Harkin’s bill will fill a critical need for the half of the working population who have no access to a retirement plan at work."

   –  Service Employees International Union

“The USA Retirement Funds Act is a critical step forward towards addressing the looming retirement crisis. Research affirms that a retirement plan like the one called for in the legislation introduced today will not only significantly reduce risks for workers, but will cost only half as much as a typical 401(k).  I commend Senator Harkin for his leadership on this bill which will enable many more Americans to have a secure and dignified retirement and save them money in the process.”

   –  Neera Tanden, Center for American Progress

“USA Retirement Funds would represent a big step forward in addressing our retirement income crisis. Taking advantage of risk pooling, economies of scale and professional investment management, they would provide workers with a secure lifetime income without requiring employers to take on long-term liabilities. Borrowing from both defined benefit pensions and defined contribution plans, they share risks between employers and employees and also smooth risk across generations.”

    –  Economic Policy Institute

“We’re pleased to see both the president and members of Congress acknowledge the growing retirement crisis in this country and put forward potential solutions that will have a lasting impact for generations of Americans. …[C]ongress needs to pass legislation.  The bill introduced by Sen. Harkin takes a comprehensive approach to addressing this issue and would provide workers, including nearly two-thirds of Latino workers, with an opportunity to save for their future.”

    –  National Council of La Raza

“Our retirement system is broken.  The old ‘three-legged’ stool on which it used to be based – private savings, employer-provided pension, and Social Security – no longer provides adequate support.  That’s why this solution is so urgently needed.  It rebuilds the stool – offering Americans a convenient way to save as well as Social Security that’s truly secure.” 

    –  Robert B. Reich, former Secretary of Labor

“Senator Harkin's USA Retirement Funds Act fills in many blanks now left by the IRA/company-sponsored retirement plan options with an approach that is easy and low-cost for the many employers who want to offer a plan but feel that existing programs are too costly. It also importantly begins to address a critical problem facing business leaders today: the prospect of an aging customer base with limited means. Since many American workers are not saving enough for their retirement, Senator Harkin's call for an automatic enrollment and deposit system via payroll deduction is a smart move. Businesses thrive only when there are enough customers with enough income to afford goods and services. This plan should give every business leader more confidence in the future strength of our economy.”

    –  Denise Bowyer, Vice President of American Income Life and board member of the American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund

“Senator Harkin’s creative and innovative USA Retirement Funds proposal will expand pension coverage for millions of workers. USA Retirement Funds embrace many of the best features of traditional pension plans: they are pooled and professionally invested, they lock the money in until retirement, and they pay out a stream of monthly payments that cannot be outlived. Also, investment and life expectancy risks are shared by all participating workers and retirees, improving on 401(k) plans, where the risks are borne by each individual. We applaud Senator Harkin for developing an exciting new concept to address the nation's retirement income crisis.”

    –  Pension Rights Center

“Millions of people across the country, including millions of Hispanics, lack retirement accounts.  NHCOA is excited by the Act’s potential to increase economic security of Hispanic older adults… [and] is eager to support the Act.”

    –  National Hispanic Council on Aging

“Nowhere is the retirement crisis more evident than among the Latino community.  Latinos not only have the lowest percentage of individuals with employer-sponsored pension plans, they also have the lowest percentage of individuals contributing to a 401(k) plans.  That is why we are pleased that Senator Harkin has filed legislation, the USA Retirement Funds Act, which establishes a way for individuals who currently do not have a pension plan to put money away for their retirement.”

     –  Latinos for a Secure Retirement

“The NRLN believes your proposal represents an important milestone in the process of rebuilding the private pension system in a productive and sustainable fashion. We congratulate you on taking this important step on behalf of America’s future retirees.” 

      –  National Retiree Legislative Network

“The Alliance for Retired Americans is encouraged to see Senator Harkin introduce legislation, the USA Retirement Funds Act, which would provide an avenue for individuals who currently do not have a pension plan to save money for their retirement.  Many seniors are already struggling to make ends meet, and the situation is expected to get worse as Baby Boomers and Generation Xers reach traditional retirement ages in the coming decades… The retirement security crisis needs to be addressed, and we applaud Senator Harkin for presenting an important first step.”

      –  Alliance for Retirement Americans

“The UAW… [c]ommends Chairman Harkin’s leadership and commitment to America’s workers. As the number of defined benefits pension plans has dramatically declined and the average American has retirement savings of less than $10,000, it is time to take action to secure the retirement security of our nation… [C]hairman Harkin has taken a step in the right direction and Congress should enact his practical and sensible solutions to strengthen retirement security for millions of working Americans and future generations… [T]he time to act is now and the UAW enthusiastically supports Chairman Harkin’s proposal.”

      –  United Auto Workers

“Introduction of the USA Retirement Fund Act today… [r]epresents a significant leap forward to improve the nation’s retirement security for generations.  The current retirement infrastructure does not work for nearly half of the workforce, which has no access to a retirement plan through their employer…  [T]his new proposal could go a long way to put Americans on a solid financial track for their future.”

      –  National Institute on Retirement Security

“NCPERS applauds and endorses your efforts at focusing national attention on America's retirement security crisis and the vital role defined benefit pension plans must play in resolving that crisis. Restoring the three-legged stool of retirement security – Social Security, a defined benefit pension and personal savings including 401(k)s and IRAs – is crucial if America is to achieve long-term economic stability and provide its citizenry with retirement security for all.”

     –  National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems

“We are… particularly pleased that your new legislation, the USA Retirement Funds Act, reflects many of the core design features that NCTR supports for the public sector, such as universal coverage; automatic enrollment; shared employer/employee commitment; and pooled, professionally managed investments. NCTR believes that these features not only assure self-sufficiency for retirees by providing a predictable benefit that is guaranteed for life, including cost-effective disability and survivor benefits, but also help maintain a high performance workforce by providing a benefit that will attract and retain quality and highly trained public employees.”

     –  National Council on Teacher Retirement

“The proposal to combine new, market-based USA Retirement Funds with a strengthened Social Security system greatly increases the likelihood that workers, especially women, will attain economic security after their retirement.”

      –  Wider Opportunities for Women

“A hallmark of a sound economy – one that works for the 99% and not just the 1% – is the promise of retirement security for all...  [Senator] Harkin’s recommended reforms reaffirm how pensions are an essential tool for powering our economy...  [S]enator Harkin’s policy proposals provide a path for America’s workers to retire with dignity.”

      –  Jobs with Justice

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