Hillary Clinton And Wall Street: Financial Industry May Control Retirement Savings In A Clinton Administration

Source: David Sirota and Avi Asher-Schapiro, International Business Times, October 19, 2016

While Hillary Clinton has spent the presidential campaign saying as little as possible about her ties to Wall Street, the executive who some observers say could be her Treasury Secretary has been openly promoting a plan to give financial firms control of hundreds of billions of dollars in retirement savings. The executive is Tony James, president of the Blackstone Group. … It is a plan that proponents say could help millions of Americans — but could also enrich another constituency: the hedge fund and private equity industries that Blackstone dominates and that have donated millions to support Clinton’s presidential bid. The proposal would require workers and employers to put a percentage of payroll into individual retirement accounts “to be invested well in pooled plans run by professional investment managers,” as James put it. In other words, individual voluntary 401(k)s would be replaced by a single national system, and much of the mandated savings would flow to Wall Street, where companies like Blackstone could earn big fees off the assets. And because of a gap in federal anti-corruption rules, there would be little to prevent the biggest investment contracts from being awarded to the biggest presidential campaign donors. … Rather than funneling the hundreds of billions of dollars of new tax revenue into expanding Social Security benefits, as many Democratic lawmakers have called for, James proposed something different: A decade after George W. Bush’s failed attempt to divert Social Security revenue into private retirement accounts, the Blackstone president outlined a plan to create individual retirement accounts, some of whose assets would be managed by private financial firms. …