As Washington is embroiled in the debate over how to avert the fiscal cliff, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Thursday that he was confident lawmakers “would address it.”
Arriving a bit late to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement annual women’s retirement symposium in Washington, Harkin told attendees that a vote on a trade agreement had delayed his arrival and that he had just got word that Congress “may vote on a debt limit extension “ on Thursday afternoon.
Calling the fiscal cliff a “slope,” Harkin said lawmakers in Washington get “overwrought with one crisis and forget others,” namely the retirement income crisis. What isn’t being talked about, he said, is the “retirement deficit: what people have saved compared to what they should have saved,” for retirement, which he estimated presents a $6.6 trillion deficit. He called the deficit “truly frightening,” especially for women, as they continue to only make 70 cents for every dollar men earn. During the years women stop working to, for instance, raise children or take care of elderly parents, they lose approximately $659,000 over a lifetime, Harkin said.
The retirement deficit crisis, Harkin said, prompted him to recently pen a report, “The Retirement Crisis and a Plan to Solve It”, which includes a proposal to provide universal access to pension plans called Universal, Secure, and Adaptable (USA) Retirement Funds.
Harkin said that he intends to put his report “in bill form” when the new Congress convenes in January.