Friday, September 27, 2013

Why Can’t More Lawmakers Be Like These Guys ?!

Show of hands: who believes that lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are doing a good job governing our country?  If this fictitious exercise actually took place, I feel safe in predicting that most hands would remain firmly at our sides, in our laps, or perhaps in the arms-crossed pose that our children see when they have misbehaved.  In other words, not too many approving hands raised.
There are certainly those who believe that the current gridlock we are witnessing in our nation’s capitol is a net positive, and that failure to enact laws at the federal level means less government intrusion in our lives, a goal some feel is always worth seeking.  While it may be true that our lives are sometimes over-regulated and interfered with and that “less is more,” our world truly is much more complex economically, socially and politically than the world our country’s founders faced when they set up our form of government.  While less government intrusion may be desired, it still takes a functioning government to keep our nation strong, competitive, and in-step with the rest of the world.  Few would characterize the current lack of cooperation, the intolerance for differences of opinion, and sometimes outright bitterness in Washington, as conducive to a functioning government.  

One notable exception to this partisan dysfunction is being demonstrated by two lawmakers, each from a different party, and each from a different body of Congress.  They are perhaps more visible to those in our industry because they share a legislative priority—retirement security—that is vital to us.  But, even putting any special interest aside, they seem to behave like statesmen of old; respectful, constructive, realistic, practical lawmakers who want to get a job done.  A job they believe is in the best interest of the American taxpayer.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have each introduced similar, if not quite “matching bookends” legislation in their respective congressional bodies, bills primarily intended to simplify and enhance retirement saving.  And, hoped for as a natural outcome, to yield better retirement preparedness for American workers.    

The details of their bills, H.R. 2117 and S. 1270, are not the point to be made here.  Suffice it to say they share more similarities than differences, are geared toward making employer-sponsored plans more available to American workers, to make plan administration simpler and more straightforward, and provide genuine incentives to put away more dollars for retirement purposes.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about these long-time lawmakers is that they “get it” when it comes to the real impact retirement saving has on the U.S. budget.  Some lawmakers, journalists and policy wonks label retirement saving as a cost—a loss—in terms of federal tax revenue, and a significant contributor to our federal budget deficit.  Some of these lawmakers would greatly curtail tax-advantaged retirement saving.  Hatch and Neal recognize that tax-deferred saving is not a loss to the budget, but simply moving taxation “down the lunch line,” to be taxed in a later year when assets are withdrawn by a retiree, or by a saver who needs these assets prior to leaving employment.  Never mind the fact that retirement saving is a HUGE contributor to the capital formation upon which much business and personal lending is based, and is there for,  a great cog in our country’s economic engine.

Imagine, lawmakers who have truly done their homework on an issue that is vital to our citizens’ security, and to our economy as a whole; lawmakers whose vision reaches across party lines, and across congressional boundaries.  Show of hands if you’d like to see more lawmakers in Washington, D.C., govern like these guys.  Thought so!