The way to get ahead in America these days is to make terrible choices. That’s how you get your very own government bailout.
Instead of working hard, going to school, waiting to be married before having children, paying my mortgage even when it meant putting other wants aside, I should’ve dropped out of high school, gotten pregnant by several different baby daddies, bought a house I couldn’t afford and quit paying for it.
Had I done those things: the government, through taxpayers, would be paying for health care and food for me and my children; and my baby daddies, through child support, would likely be paying for my lifestyle. And had I made those choices and just held on long enough, the government might force banks to forgive student loans and to lower the principal on my home mortgage.
Those who bought more house than they could afford received a modicum of relief via the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007. If you were lucky enough to get your mortgage holder to forgive a portion of your house debt, you didn’t have to pay income taxes on that forgiven debt. It’s a double bailout. Not only did mortgage companies forgive debt but the government forgave tax debt, too. That law was passed at the height of the housing crisis. Despite a revived housing market, however, the tax-debt relief continues. The law is set to expire at the end of 2014, but at least two senators, Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Debbie Stabenow, have proposed legislation to extend the giveaway through the end of 2016.
Never mind the millions of Americans too stupid to continue paying their mortgages when the going got tough or the people who never sought home loans they couldn’t afford in the first place. Those dolts, and I’m one of them, get to pay twice — first for our own mortgages, and then for everyone else’s in the form of taxes, or more taxes.
The heady days of puppeteers stinking up Zucotti Park in New York City with pleas for free stuff ended in 2011, but their student loan forgiveness demands live on. A President Barack Obama executive action gives current and future students the opportunity to pay as they earn. The dictate will cap some student loan payments to 10 percent of earnings and forgives loan balances after 20 years. And in December, the same rules will apply to those who took out student loans between 2007 and 2011.
The message is those who worked hard to pay off their student loans are idiots. They should’ve waited around for a government handout. And the kids who were smart enough to work their tails off in high school for scholarships so they didn’t need loans in the first place? Their youth was wasted. They should’ve spent their formative years having fun and smoking dope in the high school parking lot because their hard work is no longer to be lauded or rewarded by certain economic advantages.
Don’t even get me started on the baby boomers who struggled to get ahead by saving money, as they were encouraged to do in a 401(k), only to have the bottom fall out of their investments. Or those who drank the housing Kool-Aid and put their retirement funds in real estate.
There’s a quiet bailout afoot for the baby boomers who never saved a dime, though.
In January 2010, BusinessWeek reported that the Obama administration was weighing the idea of “converting” 401(k)s into annuities. This idea continues to resurface regularly.
There’s the 20/20 plan, which would limit contributions that individuals can make to their 401(k) accounts — giving the government access to more of an individual’s earnings. And then there’s the myRA plan Obama announced in his 2014 State of the Union address. That plan would allow individuals to contribute to government-style 401(k) plans that would invest solely in U.S. Treasury Bonds. Conspiracy theorists believe the plan is a precursor to confiscating 401(k)s and converting them into government annuities. Count me among the conspiracy theorists.
Essentially, the government would take retirement savings and promise to pay monthly benefits in retirement years. In the end game, the plan would “convert” your savings to the government to spend.
That almost always means doling cash out to people who didn’t play by the rules in the first place. Neat-O.
Freelance columnist Danedri Herbert writes in this space once a month.