…that tomorrow our pensions will be killed with our hopes of retirement. The line doesn’t convey the extent of the tragedy Philip Gourevitch captured in the title of his book on the Rwandan genocide, but it is what came to mind reading Matt Moffett’s shocking Wall Street Journal story “Argentina makes grab for pensions amid crisis.” Moffett dispassionately reported yesterday:
Argentina’s leftist government has seemingly found a novel way to find the money to stay afloat: cracking open the piggybank of the nation’s private pension system.
The government proposed to nationalize the private pensions, which would provide it with much of the cash it needs to meet debt payments and avoid a second default this decade.
Reading the story over lunch yesterday, I was struck by how little notice has been taken of the story in the United States. The mainstream media are otherwise preoccupied with their celebration of the advent of The One.
Today the Journal devotes an editorial to the pending Argentine pension seizure, drawing a cautionary note for Americans. In a related story today, Moffett finds the execrable Argentine president “accusing the [private pension] funds of having instrumented ‘policies of plunder.'” He adds: “She said Argentina was setting an example of how to deal with the global financial crisis.” That’s what I was worried about when I read Moffett’s story yesterday.
In its editorial the Journal observes:
Mrs. Kirchner won’t have trouble making the case for expropriation to Congress, which is controlled by her fellow Peronists. When the Argentine government ran out of money in 2001, it blamed the market and increased its own role in the economy. Since then it has imposed price controls, defaulted on its debt, seized dollar bank accounts, devalued the currency, nationalized businesses and tried to set confiscatory tax rates with the aim of making society more “fair.” Mrs. Kirchner and her predecessor (and husband) NestÃ³r Kirchner have also preserved the Peronist tradition of big spending.
The underlying theme here is the one I sought to draw out last week in the column “Obama, Joe the plumber, and the gospel of envy.”
UPDATE: At his USNews blog, James Pethokoukis shows Democrats thinking along the same lines as Mrs. Kirchner.
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