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Former Senator Kent Conrad: A way to break the gridlock: help Americans secure their retirement

The Hill

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Too often, it seems that the message from Washington is about what we cannot agree on, rather than what we can accomplish together. Despite a growing list of issues that appear headed for gridlock, there remains opportunity for action on important policies that can help the American people. Retirement security is one of those issues that crosses partisan boundaries.

Last week, when I testified before my former colleagues in the Senate on the importance of modernizing retirement policy in the United States, the message was clear from both sides of the aisle: the current retirement system does not work for millions of Americans, is not designed to meet the needs of a modern economy, and must be reformed.

Retirement security is an important policy issue that crosses partisan boundaries. 

There are bipartisan solutions. A commission at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which I co-chaired with former Social Security principal deputy commissioner James B. Lockhart III, reached agreement on a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve the retirement system as a whole. Several specific reforms are fairly non-controversial and could be accomplished with relative ease by policymakers.

Congress should establish retirement security plans that make it easy for small businesses to enroll their employees into simple retirement savings plans with low costs. Employers should be allowed to automatically enroll employees in multiple savings accounts — specifically a retirement account and a short-term savings account — making individuals less likely to raid their retirement savings.