Last Thursday evening, the Colorado Secure Savings Plan passed out of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee on a party line vote. Throughout the committee hearing, we heard from a string of naysayers – each of whom acknowledged that Coloradans are saving far too little, but all of whom shot holes in our innovative solution that would help workers save and invest their own earnings. Five other states have thoroughly studied and adopted this concept.
As I reflected on the hearing, I was thrilled our legislation was moving forward, but concerned that entrenched interests will prevent our state from taking action on a critical problem that we can solve, but only if we act in time. I took to twitter, posting:
This theme of big, bold action is one that I keep coming back to as I reflect on the future of work and its impact on our economy. I’m joining a panel discussion on this topic this week. We do, in fact, face a very hard road ahead. Growth in economic productivity is not translating into growth in wages. Some analysts believe that by 2020, 50 percent of Americans will be working in our contingent economy – what the U.S. General Accounting Office defines as work that is “not long-term, year, full-time employment with a single employer”. Without formal employers, many workers won’t have access to benefits like retirement savings, paid leave and health insurance. We will need to reconfigure how people access these critical programs.
These challenges are facing us now and we are talking regularly at the Bell Policy Center about how we must adapt. What worries me is that our political system is failing to adapt to these changes. We have big decisions to make. What role should governments play in helping their citizens adapt to these new realities? As companies need fewer workers, what rules should they play by? As wealth among those who control technology consolidates and grows, does our system for collecting government revenue need to change?
These aren’t easy questions and there are sharp differences over how we approach them, but we must ask an answer these vital questions. What concerned me last Thursday night was not that a group of legislators voted no on the proposal or that the opponents raised concerns. What concerned me was that there was no alternative proposal on the table.
When I ponder the future, I cannot help but wonder how it will all work out. Years from now, I am sure we will look back on how we responded to the changes we saw coming in our economy. Historians will sort through the players and their perspectives. If we fail to reverse problems like the retirement crisis that we know are coming, I have no doubt that the harshest judgment will be for those who acknowledged the problem, but refused to act.
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