You think that after they took your house, and your job, and your personal savings, you've been squeezed dry? You think milking your meager IRA for fees, which nets Wall Street billions every year, would keep the monster fat and happy? You think manipulating every market metric and stacking the deck in every way imaginable would be enough?
Now they're after your pensions, and it ain't pretty.
The financial services industry is wolfing down an ever-larger share of our economy. As a percentage of GDP, they are north of 8%, which may not sound like much, but in a world where interest rates on savings are counted in fractions of one percent, that's a helluva drag on the rest of us. Their take has been rising steadily since the 1950's, when it was around 2%. But the really telling statistic is that they account for nearly a third of all profits.
How do they do it?
Well, there's the scam by which defined benefit pensions got swapped out for IRAs and 401(k)s. There's the mortgage-backed security scam. The MERS scam. The LIBOR scam. And now the ICAP scam (see Matt Taibi's latest, and weep.) You probably know and can recite the litany.
It has all put the average family under tremendous pressure. That pressure has made many people vulnerable. And now comes a new scam specifically designed to separate the vulnerable from their last remaining assets.
A stunning piece in the NYT by Jessica Silver Greenberg lays bare a new outrage:
To retirees, the offers can sound like the answer to every money worry: convert tomorrow's pension checks into today's hard cash.If you are inclined to give the benefit of the doubt, you might say that there are circumstances where such lenders might actually provide a useful service. But then there's this:
But these offers, known as pension advances, are having devastating financial consequences for a growing number of older Americans, threatening their retirement savings and plunging them further into debt.
The advances, federal and state authorities say, are not advances at all, but carefully disguised loans that require borrowers to sign over all or part of their monthly pension checks. They carry interest rates that are often many times higher than those on credit cards.
A review by The New York Times of more than two dozen contracts for pension-based loans found that after factoring in various fees, the effective interest rates ranged from 27 percent to 106 percent — information not disclosed in the ads or in the contracts themselves. Furthermore, to qualify for one of the loans, borrowers are sometimes required to take out a life insurance policy that names the lender as the sole beneficiary.I'm long past wondering how these jackals sleep at night.
What will they take when there is nothing left to steal?