Coyote has some questions about a sweeping yet underpublicized new California law.
P.S. Josh Barro writes via Twitter (adapted), “I don’t buy this. Worker participation is voluntary, and if it looks like they’re paying into a slush fund, they’ll withdraw. I’d worry more that CALPers will start offering a tax-backed defined benefit to private workers, atop public promises. I think it would be a fine idea to let people participate in the CALPers investment fund, with the participant bearing all risk. Big pension funds do have real administrative cost advantages over 401(k)s. The problem is they get in the risk-shifting business. The bill says California must ‘secure private underwriting and reinsurance to manage risk and insure the retirement savings rate of return.’ I think that means there’s no reliance on a taxpayer guarantee — risk must be borne by a private firm and therefore priced right.”
P.P.S. Scott Shackford at Reason has further analysis, calling attention to “guaranteed return” language as well as to the AP’s description of the program’s must-make-an-effort-to-get-out structure: “The program directs employers to withhold 3 percent of their workers’ pay unless the employee opts out of the savings program, which can be done every two years.”