Saturday, June 20, 2009

Withdraw now or later: Either way, your IRA is screwed

(Photos are of six generations of the Stillwater, Janssen, Gandy, Purpus, MacNamara and Hooker families -- before the era of IRAs. That's me with the pearl necklace and Mamie bangs, and white bow and wannabe Shirley Temple curls)

"What should I do about my IRA?" wailed my friend Jim. "If I leave it in a CD in the bank, it's only going to earn seven-elevenths of a percent in interest. But if I try to make it earn more by buying stocks and bonds with it, I could stand to lose it all -- not to mention having to pay stock brokers' fees. However, if I just let it sit in the bank and do nothing, inflation might eat it all up. But if I take it out and buy gold and silver instead -- or even just store it under my mattress -- then I lose up to 33% of it to income taxes, the second it stops being an IRA."

Jim, your IRA is screwed.

Remember back in the day when IRAs seemed like a good thing, wherein Jim didn't have to pay taxes on his income then -- because he could pay taxes on it later, perhaps after Clinton's peace dividend kicked in and taxes went down? Who would have thought that "later" was going to cause all these problems? The financial good times were rolling. "'Later" seemed like a good thing. "Later" seemed really safe.

Who would have guessed that, financially speaking, the building would catch fire and Jim's IRA would be stuck in the flames, crying to get out of a lock-down with no exit!

So. What should Jim do? What would you do if you were Jim?

One solution to this dilemma would be if our Congressional representatives finally told the Federal Reserve Bank to go shove it. "You've screwed up our economy long enough and your services are no longer needed," our reps would say as they finally begin to stand up for the rights of the people who elect them. Like that's ever going to happen.

Another solution might be for Congress to pass emergency legislation to protect our IRAs -- so we could put them into special interest-bearing CDs designed solely to protect the savings of old people? Nope. That's never going to happen either.

"You'll never get the government to do that," commented my friend Doug, "because the government really wants those IRAs put into stocks. Why? Because the stock market is like a giant legal casino and the house, er, I mean the government, not only gets a 28% rake but also looks the other way while stock traders who also get a share of the take fill up our Congressional representatives' campaign coffers." Oh. That's why.

Another solution is to stop lobbyists from owning Congress (and dreaming up ways to get their grubby little hands on our IRAs too). Congress hasn't been listening to us the voters at all in the past few decades because Congress has been too busy listening to lobbyists. Congress has become tone-deaf to the people who have elected them. "But what about passing some election campaign finance reform bills?" you might ask. Yeah, right. Campaign finance reform bills have gone nowhere in the past 20-odd years, languishing in committees, unheard.

If America is ever going to be a great and free nation again, we've gotta stop piddling away our time and resources while tilting at windmills in the Middle East, put on our warrior suits here at home and defeat America's real enemies -- corporate lobbyists.

Every voter in America owes it to his or her country -- and to his or her IRA! -- to sign a petition to pass a new Constitutional Amendment limiting the amount of money each political candidate can take from one source. Congress has refused to take action in this matter, and now the ball is in our court.

"How about limiting everyone to donating only $500 each?" Fine. That ought to screw the lobbyists on K Street -- instead of just us getting screwed.

So I popped off to the Petition Site and wrote out my own freaking petition. Here it is. If everyone in America who has an IRA at stake in this race signs it, we really could amend the Constitution, get rid of lobbyists, elect OURSELVES to Congress and save the day! If you are feeling heroic, please click and sign here:

PS: The real difference between the Right Wing and the Left Wing these days seems to be that when Left-Wingers get upset by political developments, they all run out and initiate Congressional bills and Constitutional Amendments -- while when the Right Wing gets upset, they all run out and stir up hate-mongering until one of their fringe wingnuts finally shoots someone or else a foreign country gets bombed.

According to Geoffrey Canada's excellent book, "Fist Stick Knife Gun," violence is NOT inherent in the human psyche. It is learned. Whenever you spank a child, you are teaching it to be violent. And when you are an arms dealer trying to figure out the best way to up your profit margin by marketing handguns to children [and to the Pentagon and people who watch Fox News], you are also teaching violence.