06-04-2016, 11:58 PM
This movement crystallized from research into the looming retirement crisis. Too many Americans are headed into their golden years without nearly the kind of savings needed to maintain their standard of living. And their defined-benefit pensions have gradually transitioned into defined-contribution plans like 401(k)s, which have rewarded Wall Street with hidden and excessive fees while eating away at individual gains. The change also shifted market risks from employers onto employees, who must hope to avoid a drop in stocks as they hit retirement age.
Research from just a few months ago found that the median family has only $5,000 saved in their 401(k) retirement account. And lower-income Americans are unlikely to have access to any retirement plan at all. Social Security was not designed to become a national retirement system by itself, but that’s what it’s become for Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution.
Lawmakers followed the rank and file consensus. Elizabeth Warren jumped aboard the Harkin bill in late 2013. A House bill quickly got dozens of co-sponsors. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who holds down the conservative wing of the Democratic Party, endorsed an expansion amendment. Bernie Sanders made it a campaign plank, one that Hillary Clinton eventually had to endorse, albeit in a more targeted fashion.