• Education

Malcolm Gladwell agrees with us

Malcom Gladwell has a great piece in the Aug. 28 issue of The New Yorker on pensions and the failure of the employer-based benefits model. He uses as an example General Motors, which, as it reduces the size of its workforce, creates an increasingly unsustainable "dependency ratio": the number of workers compared to the number of "dependents," or people drawing on pensions. This same phenomenon bankrupted Bethlehem Steel in 2001, as its increased effiency enabled it to operate with fewer workers. Gladwell points out "the absurdity of a system in which individual employers are responsible for providing their own employee benefits," and argues that the burden should be spread across a larger pool of workers, a system envisioned by union organizers back in 1949. "If the risks of providing for health care and old-age pensions are shared by all of us," he writes, "then companies can succeed or fail based on what they do and not on the number of their retirees." Gladwell sees the direction America is heading; Freelancers Union is already there. See also Gladwell's own blog post on "The Risk Pool."

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