Denial in Detroit

Detroit's problems are not the fault of the decline of the auto industry -- an industry that is, in fact, on a bit of a roll these days.   Detroit's problems are the same problems that plague Illinois, California and the US Treasury -- promises paid for with ever increasing levels of promises and debts.

Detroit's problems were compounded by corrupt and incompetent politicians, which are a staple of modern big city government in the US.  Citizens vote for these folks, so there is some justice in the fact that these cities are all collapsing fiscally.  The absurd notion that taxing a few rich people can solve a city's problems simply matches a similar absurd notion at the national level.  (Taxing a few rich people is mainly a way of having rich people move to friendlier places).

No defined benefit pension plan is ever going to survive.  Social security is a defined benefit system .  It won't survive either.  Any system that makes future promises without any means of payment is not going to make it.  Detroit is just the beginning; Chicago can't be far behind.  And yes, Virginia, you will have your day in the bankruptcy court as well.

All of those defenders of defined benefit systems forgot to ask what happens when there is no money to pay the benefits.  Is the great advantage of a professional investment process worth much when the system can't pay the benefits?  Even bad investments by individuals in defined contributions systems would have been way better for Detroit pensioners than the outcome that is headed their way.

By the way, it is worth noting that it is not possible to be on a financial loss if you own a typical index fund.  Not possible.  How's that?  Well, as of Thursday's close, the stock market has never been higher. 

For all of the villification of Wall Street by the Obama Administration and the media, it turns out that a simple buy-and-hold strategy by ordinary investors is a ticket to wealth that has been and is available to everyone.  I bet a lot of Detroiters now wish they had had the opportunity to opt out of the defined benefit system and invest their own money, their own way.

Not to mention that if you have a defined contribution plan and you die, your children can inherit the assets, something that cannot happen with defined benefit and and its twin -- social security.

Just like ObamaCare, promises are made that politicians have no intention of keeping.  But, the media pretends that these promises are true.  Detroit shows us the reality.


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