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Alternative Visions – French Workers’ General Strike to Prevent the American ‘Retirement Model’ – 12.20.19

For the past week a general strike has been happening in France, the focus of which is to protest and prevent President Macron from introducing an ‘American Model’ of retirement system that would raise retirement age and reduce pension retirement benefits. What’s the ‘American Model’? Dr. Rasmus provides a historical overview of that model, created in the late 1940s based on the so-called ‘triple stool’ of retirement: social security, defined benefit pension plans (DBPs), and personal savings. Each was supposed to provide one-third of income of a reasonable retirement. Rasmus explains the evolution of social security, DBPs, and savings since Reagan and how all three have been steadily undermined, reduced, or destroyed since the 1980s—replaced by 401ks, cash balance plans, raised retirement years, and privatization of pensions. Today more than half of workers have no savings whatsoever, 401ks provide less than $50k on average for the rest of lifetimes, and social security averages less than $1,200 a month. Retirees are forced to work until they drop now, the fastest growing segment of the US labor force as they return to part time employment. Tens of millions are now facing a retirement crisis of unimaginable dimensions. (Next week: a guest, Alan Benjamin, an eyewitness to the strike in progress,  will describe what’s actually going on in the French strike to prevent the ‘Americanization’ of the retirement system in France).