The Magazine

No Shoving

It’s not a nudge when it comes from Washington.

Feb 17, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 22 • By ABBY W. SCHACHTER
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Sunstein is wrong that government is the correct vehicle to get individuals to change their behavior, even if one supports the behavior being encouraged. As Tom Bartlett just wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “the federal government has spent nearly a billion dollars to help poor couples stay together—with almost nothing to show for it.” Indeed, the Family Expectations program is such a dismal failure that Bartlett wonders why it isn’t being shut down. And remember, too, that Family Expectations is a relatively inexpensive experiment in behavior modification compared with various other federal programs. 

Meanwhile, Sunstein and Obama are presupposing that saving for retirement is the most important goal for those who aren’t already doing so. It isn’t necessarily, and the reason is that too many individuals are facing a bigger problem than having enough money when they stop working. Before saving for retirement you ought to be putting something away for what used to be known quaintly as a rainy day. According to a study just released by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, “the percentage of households in the U.S. who lack the savings needed to weather a financial storm like a job loss or medical emergency is holding tight at 44 percent, suggesting that almost half of Americans are on the brink of financial calamity.” 

That “almost half” of Americans are exactly the people Obama’s MyRA accounts are targeting. And if those workers are ruined financially today, what does it matter if they haven’t saved enough for tomorrow?

Abby W. Schachter, a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, blogs about the intersection of government policy and parenting at captainmommy.com.

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