Friday, August 24, 2012

Pussy Riot is PR!

Pussy Riot Rest in Advance for their World Tour in Two Years
Universally admired, Pussy Riot (or PR for short) have been promoted as superstars. But what are they? A rock or punk group they are not. A British journalist marvelled: they produce no music, no song, no painting, nada, rien, nothing. How can they be described as 'artists'?

The US State Department paid for the PR group's first video, and The Guardian kindly produced it!

On the day that three members of the Russian punk-activist group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in jail for the charge of 'hooliganism driven by religious hatred', they earned a few new fans as well. First, the other members of the band released a new single online, 'Putin Lights Up the Fires'. The Guardian newspaper in England compiled clips and stills for an accompanying video, and the song could be a post-sentencing rallying cry for the millions of music fans and free-speech advocates following the case.

The three self publicists will come out of jail inside two years and will get a world tour, supported by Madonna! The future returns will be well worth a couple of years in nick. And is two years excessive?

Two years’ sentence is quite in line with prevailing European practice. For much milder anti-Jewish hate talk, European countries customarily sentence offenders to two-to-five years of prison for the first offence. ... Western governments call for more freedom for the anti-Christian Russians, while denying it for holocaust revisionists in their midst.
Israel Shamir, "The Secret History of Pussy Riot", Counterpunch

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How Julian Assange was Set-Up. Australia BC

The Swedish extradition request for Julian Assange has been considered a blatant set-up by most on the British left who have followed the matter, and many, especially feminists and those campaigning for stricter rape laws have seen the Swedish allegations as superseding the WikiLeaks exposure of absurd levels of secrecy in the western world, led by the neurosis of the American military-Industrial complex that is trying to conquer the world, while fooling the people and blinding democracy everywhere.

This documentary made by ABC shows the extent of the machinations, notably that the two women who have made the rape allegations originally did no such thing, merely seeking police advice on what to do, both of them having had consensual sex with Assange, if he had a sexually transmitted disease. The police, it seems, distressed at least one of the two women by immediately seeking a prosecutor to issue an arrest warrant for Assange. Assange made no effort to leave Sweden until the Prosecutors had been satisfied that he had no charge to face, but they then almost immediately issued a new arrest warrant, giving the impression that Assange had fled, skipped bail, or otherwise tried to escape justice.

Still no charges had been issued, yet an extradition order was filed. The UK accepted the request. Assange was therefore being extradited by the UK so that he could be interviewed over a matter he had already been interviewed over and allowed to go, then had waited until he had been given the all clear to leave the country, before being required by extradition to return, still with no charges laid, to be interviewed again, presumably in the hope of making a case.

Floating in the background is the USA, pretending not to be interested in all this, when the unanimous view is that Assange would be immediately extradited to the US as soon as he landed in Sweden.

Watch the video. It is well produced by the ABC, and shows the shenanigans going on in Sweden in the total ineptitude of the Swedish authorities to massage their procedures enough to make them seem convincing, against the right wing conspiracy of secrecy that the western powers now command, despite their incessant lying about how democratic they are.

See also: The Guardian, and:

Many women in both Sweden and Britain will wonder at the unusual zeal with which Julian Assange is being pursued for rape allegations....

There is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women's safety. In the south of the US, the lynching of black men was often justified on grounds that they had raped or even looked at a white woman. Women don't take kindly to our demand for safety being misused, while rape continues to be neglected at best or protected at worst.

Katrin Axelsson, Women Against Rape

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How We Got Here. What We Should Do

There will never be any trouble in filling the creative jobs, and far more people who have to do dull monotonous work could be trained to creative or constructive jobs. … It’s quite unfair for people to have to do boring jobs that machines could do—there’s nothing intrinsically good about work.
Mary Quant
Capitalism is not Democracy

How We Got Here

Award winning journalist, Jon Pilger describes Western democracies led by the USA as corporatist. Democracy is now a business plan—a plan to rob the people.

“Corporatist” means run like a national corporation looking after the interests of monopoly capitalists under the guise of a “democratic” state. It is state monopoly capitalism, the interlinked development of the capitalist market and its organization by the ruling capitalist class to sustain their profits.

Marx showed how capitalism tended to monopoly, through concentrating capital via credit. About a century ago, Lenin realized the state intervened to secure bigger profits for capital. Despite the appellation “democracy” we attach to it, the state we live in is never fair to all classes. It benefits monopoly capital at the expense of the blue and white collared working classes and the “middle” class of small businesses. It is a contradiction of capitalism that has not changed in the century since Lenin.

Capitalism’s essential failings manifest as recurring crises. A UK premier, Gordon Brown, was fancifully idiotic in announcing the end of “Boom and Bust” a few years ago. He thought he had disproved Marx. The present deep depression proves otherwise. Capitalist crises occur when the accumulation of money (capital) into private hands, and the drive to maximize profits by price inflation and wage stagnation, by offshoring, mechanization and sackings, leaves the consumer unable to buy all that is being produced. It is why the government seeks to encourage demand now by cutting savings rates to zero. It forces people to spend their savings, or see it erode by inflation. It also explains why earlier it extended credit ridiculously attempting to hold off the crisis, thereby lifting personal debt to absurdly high and unsustainable levels.

By monopoly, the super rich had bigger profits than most because they controlled the supply of the essential commodities they had monopolized, and so could profiteer by setting any price customers were willing to pay. By paying excess for commodities, the profits of non-monopolists dropped. That accelerated the difference among the capitalist class and therefore the accumulation of capital by the monopolists. It forced, initially, lesser capitalists into finding new markets through imperialism and the export of their capital abroad.

The Wall St crash was the first capitalist crisis when the capitalist economy was essentially fully monopolized. So Marxists described the economic depression of the 1930s as “special”. Workers, farmers and small businesses in capitalist countries were forced to suffer the crisis, but millions starved in capital’s colonies and in Africa and Asia.

Economic instability, low profits and unemployment, forced capitalism to intervene in the market, resulting in the New Deal in the US, and some social-democratic economies in Europe. Elsewhere in Europe, the forces of state monopoly capital took the authoritarian road to Fascism. Both approaches had the objective of securing stability and profits for the monopolists, one with a democratic front and one with an authoritarian one.

After the Second World War and the defeat of fascism, Western capitalism resorted to a Keynesian model—effectively what the New Deal and the Fascist effort put into infrastructure had done anyway. Keynes recommended state accumulation of capital in a boom, then spending it in the succeeding bust, thereby smoothing their excesses. For the first 30 years after the War together with capital largesse from the US to bombed out countries intended to insulate the west against communism, it mitigated the excesses of the capitalist boom and slump cycle, allowing the growth of business and monopoly capital to seem fair and stable. The rich and the poor were both getting wealthier at the same rate.

Then, in the 1970s, countries which exported essential resources for industry, mainly oil and copper, secured monopolies over their raw materials. And some of the organized working class in the capitalist world demanded more of the national cake. The mega-capitalists resented it, and turned against Keynesianism which they saw as pandering to democrats and the workers. J White (New Scientist) has noted that from 1951 to 2007, US productivity rose four fold, so, had it been used to reduce everyone's working week, we would have had an eleven hour week. Everyone could have been working one long shift, or two short ones. Instead it went in profit boosting schemes like military spending.

Cuts Double Corporate Profits

State monopoly capitalism turned to an aggressive monetarism led by guru, Milton Friedmann, and promoted by Thatcher and Reagan, under the pretense of turning back to Adam Smith and neo-liberal economics. Their aim was to smash the working class and return to imperialist foreign adventures to secure foreign markets and natural resources. It meant a shift away from the productive economy of manufactures, to the deregulation of the finance and service economy of derivatives traders and bankers, but inevitably leading into a worse crisis than any we had yet seen.

The outcome, this capitalist economic crisis, will not affect everyone equally, any more than any previous one has. No one should have illusions that everyone in the nation equally will tighten our belts. Ordinary people are being made to pay, while corporations escape paying even less than they give their chief executives as bonuses. The richest one tenth (10%) of the population of Britain today owns nearly three quarters of the wealth (75%). The poor half (50%) of the population owns just one per cent (1%).

Our governments are now openly hitting the ordinary people hardest, and have not suggested any tax at all on the rich. Capitalism is no nicer than it ever has been, notwithstanding the Olympic legacies and feel good factors blarneyed around by our leaders. The working classes, which includes everyone who has to work to live—blue collar, white collar and “middle class” workers running small businesses—are the ones who will suffer. We must stand up for ourselves.

Needs of the Hour

Let us make the government:

  1. take the big banks into full public ownership
  2. stop giving tax payers’ money to private firms for them to pay out as dividends
  3. regulate the banks to serve their proper function to fund industrial investment
  4. ease the credit crunch and reduce bank charges
  5. provide alternatives to house repossessions
  6. take back control of interest rates from the Bank of England, to get a fair balance between borrowers and savers
  7. stop the domination of British economic policy by the City of London
  8. give priority to manufacturing, new technology, and research and development.

Trades unions should campaign to achieve:

  1. a rebuttal of the inevitable “there is no alternative” whine of capitalist governments, when the plain aim of policy is to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich
  2. a united battle for higher wages, benefits and pensions, campaigning alongside pressure groups, students, pensioners and the unemployed
  3. a decent national minimum wage, including paying the full rate to all young workers, and enforcing equal pay for women
  4. a ban on mass redundancies in viable enterprises, with businesses taken into public ownership when the benefits of continuation clearly exceed the costs, including all social costs
  5. a slashing of domestic gas and fuel prices, with the big six energy monopolies nationalized along with companies subsidized out of our taxes like rail and coal industries
  6. increased government spending to stimulate the economy, including investing in a huge program of public sector house building, which should be financed by taxes on the rich and big business
  7. the abandoning of costly and dangerous plans to expand nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and instead government investment in renewable energy sources including clean coal and solar power.
Revolt Against Cheating Corporations

None of this will do anything to change the economic system from capitalism, but in the struggle to improve our exploitation, we can raise awareness of the real solution—socialism. This crisis should have shown everyone that capitalism does not solve any of the social and economic problems we face. It causes problems that the mass of us ordinary people, who have to work to live, face daily.

A united mass struggle around these issues would help mobilize and politicize millions of people and help to deepen political and class consciousness in Britain. It will strengthen the organized working class and make a revolutionary movement possible to take forward the struggle against capitalism and imperialism. A fairer socialist or communist system will remove the power of riches then all of us can get a fair chance of education, work and fulfilment.

After the setbacks on the left since Reagan and Thatcher introduced the saving policies for capitalism of monetarism and neo-liberalism, the task, especially among the young is to mobilize, agitate, educate and organize amongst the new generation of the working class, to fight for our future—a socialist future!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Long, Bloody Struggle for Freedom

Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008), English Poet

Why do so many ordinary Americans, mainly Republicans, think the ruling class is on their side in their struggle for freedom? They are far from free. Their electoral system is a rich man’s toy mean to keep out the poor and middle classes, yet the poor and middle classes in the USA think they are free, and brag about it. Not only that but they want to export their brand of freedom and their rulers to the rest of the world, and cough up the tax dollars they can ill afford to keep the military going, and send their sons to distant fields to die murdering foreign families. That is the Christian nation, is it?

Hardly an advert for the US ruling class or their Christian supporters.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mr Justice Foskett Drives his Coach and Four Through an Englishman's Liberty

Coach and Four

In a 50 page ruling of the cases brought by Cait Reilly, a 23 years old geology graduate from Birmingham, and a 40 years old unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson, from Nottingham, who pleaded that Department of Works and Pensions unpaid schemes were prohibited under European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The plea by Cait Reilly was that a scheme requiring her to work for free at a Poundland discount store breached Article 4 of the ECHR which prohibits forced labour and slavery. Mr Justice Foskett rejected it, arguing:

Characterizing such a scheme as involving or being analogous to “slavery” or “forced labour” seems to me to be a long way from contemporary thinking.

He thought both schemes “are a very long way removed from the kind of colonial exploitation of labor that led to the formulation of Article 4. The convention is, of course, a living instrument, capable of development to meet modern conditions, and views may reasonably differ about the merits of a scheme that requires individuals to ‘work for their benefits’ as a means of assisting them back into the workplace”.

The ruling sets an ominous precedent for unemployed and working people. Whatever the judge argues, workfare is a violation of human rights. His central argument seems based on a vague and nonlegal understanding of the meaning of contemporary thinking regarding slavery and forced labor in a civilized state. Judge Foskett’s understanding of it is not that of someone in the situation of being forced to work for nothing or to be forced into begging or starvation. It is the understanding of those who can gain by having a destitute work force obliged to work for nothing simply to receive what the government deem an adequate income for the so called workshy—that is the thinking of the rich 1 percent, and the comfortably off who identify with them and the government.

Pick Your DWP Slave

Now liberty in English law, though implied in various medieval charters and rulings, really only begins to get clear legal status from Smith v Brown (1702). In that case, Judge Holt ruled, regarding the sale of a negro in England, that “as soon as a negro comes to England he is free. One may be a villein in England, but not a slave”. A villein is not a free man but a kind of serf, obligated to a landowner to do certain duties, notably helping at sowing and harvest time, but otherwise essentially free to farm his own plots. But Englishmen can not be slaves! Holt’s ruling is important for Englishmen but did not stop the plaintiff who was allowed to allege the sale of a slave in Virginia, where slavery was recognized by law, and the English courts recognized and enforced the rights arising under Virginian law.

Considering that Englishmen cannot be slaves, but they are not lords, masters or slave owners, they must be the equivalent of freed slaves. What then did Virginian law have to say about ex-slaves and the obligations owed to them by their former masters. Interestingly, Warren Throckmorton, a US professor has, in another context, just published the 1782 Virginian law on the manumission of slaves. Virginian slave owners were allowed, should they wish it, to release their slaves as free men, but they still owed them certain obligations! Even then in a colonial America that had just thrown off the yoke of the king Georges of England, the new state of Virginia could not tolerate starving people begging for alms in the streets, as slaves would be if they were too young, too old or too sick to work. The law therefore forbade slave owners from freeing their slaves when it suited them to because the slaves were unable to support themselves. The slave owner who nevertheless wanted to free his slaves could do so only as long as he undertook to support those of them unable to support themselves. If they refused the sheriff had the power to sell off enough of the slave owner’s estate to pay for the necessary support.

That then is the essence of the slave owner’s obligations to the freed slave in Virginian law over 200 years ago. In England today, the Englishman who can never be a slave but who can not find a job when there are seven applicants for every post—seventy in some districts—and many applicants are unqualified to get the few decent jobs available, can be forced to work as if he were a slave, or be cast aside by the state without any welfare payments to beg or starve. The freed slave in Virginia was better off. His former master had to support him. In the UK today, the JSA or “Job Seekers Allowance” is often laughable, often being cut down to a negligible amount by Department of Work and Pensions gauleiters for any infringement they care to allege.

The judge’s “contemporary thinking” is plainly a lot harsher and less just than that of the founders of the state of Virginia all those years ago. All we can say is shame on him, and shame on the ECHR that leaves such large holes for reactionary, an unfeeling and right wing judge to drive his coach and four through.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

“Too Central to Fail?” Then Robin Hood Tax ’em!

Robin Hood Taxem Advocates in NY

Sheer size is not the only indicator of importance for a financial system. Banks become “too big to fail” when their services are considered economically essential, so that the cost of their insolvency would be more than that of their rescue by the government. Even small banks closely networked with other financial institutions can pose the same level of risk as the big ones, though it is not so obvious. For this reason, the European Commission launched the scientific project Forecasting Financial Crisis (FOC). Its aim is to understand and forecast systemic risk and global financial instabilities.

A paper by four economics researchers, Stefano Battiston, Michelangelo Puliga, Rahul Kaushik and Paolo Tasca at the ETH Zurich Chair of Systems Design, together with Guido Caldarelli of IMT Lucca (Italy), under FOC auspices, went beyond evaluating how banks can be “too big to fail” by developing a “too central to fail” approach.

They analysed Federal Reserve data using a new “network research” method. The data originate from the “emergency loan program” from 2007 to 2010, through which the Fed provided “cheap” (ie free! our! public!) money to financial institutions in the USA that were acutely at risk of defaults. The Federal Reserve only published the figures after the US Supreme Court granted the Bloomberg business, financial information and news company the right to inspect the data, since the American financial system had, after all, been restructured using public funds. The data sets from the Federal Reserve, and Bloomberg, document the residual outstanding debts and the market capitalisation of a total of 407 financial institutions that borrowed emergency “loans” from the Fed. The size of the “loans” indicates a bank’s individual debt to equity ratio, and of any potential distress or defaults.

At the height of the crisis, the total amount of “loans” granted climbed to US$1.2 trillion! The assessment of the Federal Reserve data showed that, although the various banks got into difficulties at different times, around 30 banks reached their peak instability simultaneously at the height of the crisis. Over the duration of the emergency loan program, the number of top borrowers at any given moment was around 20.

From PageRank to DebtRank

Between 2008 and 2010 a total of 22 banks formed the innermost circle of the financial crisis. They were so intensely connected with each other through credit relationships, mutual equity investments and financial dependencies that the distress of any single one of them could endanger the entire financial system. The ETH Zurich researchers therefore turned their focus towards the 22 institutions that had received more than US$5 billion in emergency “loans” over the crisis period. The top borrowers from the Federal Reserve included the US branches of the two major Swiss banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, which had outstanding debts to the Fed amounting to US$13.89 billion (UBS) and US$13.29 billion (CS) between 2008 and 2010. This put them in 6th and 7th places among the top borrowers.

The main new feature in the ETH Zurich economists’ approach was their methodology. To discover how the distress of a tightly networked financial institution impacts on other banks and spreads through the network, they combined the finance notion of balance sheet contagion with methods from network science, including the principle behind the well known “PageRank” algorithm at the heart of the internet search engine Google. The score of a webpage depends, recursively, on how many other important webpages point to that webpage.

The ETH Zurich researchers introduced the “DebtRank” as a measure of the systemic importance of an institution, it being higher when its distress affects other important institutions. DebtRank serves as a recursive indicator of a bank’s level of networking and thus its systemic importance. This recursivity can be solved mathematically yielding a number measuring the fraction of the total economic value in the network that could be affected by the default of an institution.It allows an estimation of how central a bank’s position is within the financial system, and what risk it poses. Stefano Battiston explains:

Many economists regard today financial systems as complex networks, in which the financial institutions constitute the nodes and the links between the nodes represent the banks’ financial dependencies.

The results of the methodology in the interval studied can be seen interactively at

In November 2008, the emergency loans granted to just these 22 banks by the American Federal Reserve to protect the American financial system from collapse amounted to a total of US$804 billion. The interdependencies among these banks were so strong that a small shock to the system as whole could get amplified into a systemic default. Thus the US Federal Reserve could not have allowed them to fail without creating serious consequences for the economy. Over a $trillion in loans saved them and the others left out of the study, and according to these theories or excuses, “us”, from financial meltdown, but when do “we” get our money back from these mega rich who can bankrupt whole countries rather than lose their bad investments? What these researchers have shown is the network of futile transactions that generate money for the bankers out of electric current and electromagnetic waves! These transactions generate money for the rich even though the world is in a deep depression. These interbank networks need to be taxed. A “Robin Hood tax” on these transactions even at a minute level can generate for the federal treasury all the money it has given away, with no one suffering or even noticing except the bankers and other financial manipulators. Robin Hood tax ’em! Now! Demand it.

Necessity Makes People Entrepreneurial, but Where is the Start Up Cash?

No Lending: Your Tax Dollars go into Banks and Stay There!

There are two main incentives for entrepreneurship:

  1. opportunity—a perceived business opportunity
  2. necessity—a need to get more income due to job loss or pay cuts.

Examining data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey and matching that data with locations across the USA, researchers from the University of Missouri Truman School of Public Affairs found that from 2007-2010, the amount of necessity entrepreneurship rose from 16 to 28 percent of total entrepreneurship in the US. So the number of Americans engaging in entrepreneurship has risen significantly, even though the country was entering a depression similar to that of the 1930s. Thomas Johnson, a professor in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs, and co-author of the study, said:

From economic stress, great ideas are born. Many large, profitable businesses have been created due to entrepreneurship during economic downturns. Hopefully that will be the case for this period as well.

Maria Figueroa-Armijos, whose doctoral work comprised the study, agrees:

We’ve seen similar trends occur in past economically slow periods that have led to economic booms. The doldrums in the 1980s led to increased entrepreneurship and the economic growth in the 1990s.

So the trend has potential positives but they can only come to fruition when this increase of necessity driven entrepreneurship is matched by increased support of the entrepreneurs:

Currently, there is much more economic support for opportunity entrepreneurs than for people starting their own businesses out of necessity. With the rise of necessity entrepreneurs during the recession there is obviously a need for more help from lenders and policy makers. These necessity entrepreneurs could create jobs and economic growth for long-term economic prosperity.

Banks at present are hanging on to our money because they can in some magical way make more money by keeping it for dodgy trading than lending it to businesses as they used to. Naked Capitalism reports from the Telegraph that Professor Tim Congdon of International Monetary Research said US bank loans have fallen at an annual pace of almost 14pc in the three months to August—from $7,147bn to $6,886bn.

There has been nothing like this in the USA since the 1930s. The rapid destruction of money balances is madness.

The MU study also found an increase in entrepreneurship among African Americans, and it is certain that upper middle class white bankers will be even more reluctant to lend to descendents of their former slaves than they are to some redneck tea party goer.

Figueroa-Armijos also found that rural entrepreneurship levels have not decreased during the recession, despite previous research showing that rural areas lack the necessary resources for successful entrepreneurism:

These findings offer policy makers an opportunity to permanently increase entrepreneurial involvement of historically under represented groups. Considering the decline of rural populations, rural development strategies must be re-examined. Increased support for “necessity driven” self-employment not only offers a way of improving the incomes of rural residents, but also provides an opportunity to create more overall entrepreneurial activity following the recession.

The federal administration gave the banks trillions of US tax dollars to stop them from failing, so it is time it introduced legally binding obligations for banks to do what entrepreneurial bankers originally conceived them for—to lend money deposited with them to embryonic businesses at interest to get money in circulation again, and not kept for the banksters’ own nefarious purposes. To encourage them, the Fed ought to tax every wired deal—a Robin Hood tax set at a level to make it more profitable for the Banksters to lend money rather than trade it. Naturally, the redneck tea party goer will get what little money is going because he would not want to receive any such “socialist” money. The capitalist banksters like such ironies, and will take every opportunity to kick sand in the faces of those who could do with a little help.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Many American Senior Citizens Die With Little or Nothing

Old Age: Struggling to Manage

About 46 percent of senior citizens in the United States have less than $10,000 in financial assets when they die. Most of them rely on Social Security payments as their means of support. That is why Americans worry about not having enough money to live on in old age. Many of America’s old people have few savings in bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and die with almost no financial assets. It means seniors have can hardly withstand financial shocks, such as expensive medical treatments that may not be covered by Medicare or Medicaid, or other unexpected, costly events. James Poterba, the Mitsui Professor of Economics at MIT who studied the wealth of elderly Americans, said:

There are substantial groups that have basically no financial cushion as they are reaching their latest years.

The study, which also involved Steven Venti of Dartmouth College, and David A Wise of Harvard University, was among the few that have examined the economics of aging in the US, revealed a diversity of outcomes among senior citizens, and that the single elderly fared worse than married couples. While attention has been paid to how much wealth people needed to accumulate by the time of their retirement, this study focused on how that wealth panned out during retirement—right up to death.

Between 1993 and 2008, unmarried older people a year before they died had median wealth of about $165,000, including current and future Social Security income, job-related pension benefits, home equity and financial assets. In the same period, the median wealth for continuously married senior citizens, roughly a year before they died, was more than $600,000. Poterba says:

If we were to substantially reduce Social Security benefits for those later in life, there is a share of the elderly households for whom that would translate very directly into reduced income, because they seem to have accumulated little in the way of financial resources.

The work used data collected in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a continuing survey of people through their retirement, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and based at the University of Michigan.

Poterba, Venti and Wise studied people who were older than 70 in 1993 when the HRS began, until the end of 2008. People were surveyed every two years, which averaged out to a year before the deaths of all those who died in the study period. Three main paths are possible in the years before death with different financial outcomes:

  1. those consisting of one person who remained single until death
  2. married people who outlive their spouses and die single
  3. married people who die before their spouses.

Married couples are better able to mitigate the financial burdens of old age. Among retirees in the study, 52 percent who were single had annual incomes of less than $20,000 and less than $10,000 in other financial assets. In contrast, just 36 percent of single people who started out in two person households at retirement fell below those levels, and only 26 percent of people in two person households fit that description.

The study found a strong correspondence between wealth in 1993 and the length of time that people lived. That relationship held true across a variety of asset classes. People whose homes were worth more, who had larger retirement incomes, and who had more financial savings all tended to live longer than those who had fewer assets. Poterba observes that patterns of health status in these years are quite persistent. Better off senior citizens are healthier and live longer.

The paper has been praised by other researchers. David Laibson, an economist at Harvard, calls it “a terrific paper, which should have a significant impact on our national conversation about savings adequacy”. Laibson suggests that the replacement of “fixed benefit” retirement plans with plans subject to market fluctuations means that the financial situation for some seniors “is likely to get even worse in the years ahead. … For many reasons, especially pre-retirement leakage and poor stock market returns, households are accumulating far too little wealth in their 401(k) plans”, though many who end up in the bottom in tier of income, when they are very old, are folks who were probably not covered by defined-benefit plans during their working lives in any event.