The savings of 500 million individuals living in the European Union are on the line.
Let me explain:
We all know Cyprus, one of the smallest countries in the eurozone and part of the European Union, went through what many feared. To save itself from default and pay down its out-of-control national debt, the government imposed a one-off capital levy on the bank accounts of individuals in that country. If you had more than a certain amount of money in your savings account, the government outright confiscated a portion of it.
Poland, another European Union country, did something very similar. In an effort to reduce its national debt, the government took assets from private pensions and made them public. (This incident never even made the big mainstream headlines.)
When these events took place, I started writing how this would be a new trend—governments would find new and crafty ways to take money from savers in their efforts to make the governments’ dire conditions better, be it for paying off their national debt or bailing out banks.
Now, we learn of documents from a European Union official stating more of the same is on the way. The savings of the individuals in those countries will be used to fund the countries’ long-term investments and reduce the gap that the region’s banks have created by pulling back on their lending.
The document, revealed by Reuters, said, “The Commission will ask the bloc’s insurance watchdog in the second half of this year for advice on a possible draft law to mobilize more personal pension savings for long-term financing.” (Source: “EU executive sees personal savings used to plug long-term financing gap,” Reuters, February 12, 2014.)
Why should we here in North America care what’s happening in the European Union?
Dear reader, the debt situation in the U.S. is actually worse than it is in the European Union. The U.S. national debt has skyrocketed to an unprecedented level. The U.S. has the largest national debt when it comes to nominal value, and it’s only expected to increase. According to my own firm’s analysis, it wouldn’t surprise us to see our national debt go to $34.0 trillion from today’s $17.0 trillion.
Could what’s about to happen in the European Union be a testing ground for what’s to come next for the U.S. in respect to using private citizen pensions to help the government’s finances? In fact, in his State of the Union address on January 28 of this year, didn’t President Obama allude to a new retirement savings plan that’s a type of savings bond with no risk of losing capital (in other words, retirement plans that buy government bonds)?
In reality, the chances of the U.S. government taking money out of the bank accounts of American citizens are very remote. But if the Federal Reserve is pulling back on its buying of bonds, and Japan and China are no longer interested in buying U.S. Treasuries, the question of who will eventually fund our government’s debt is a serious consideration. For millions in the European Union, that question might soon be answered, as citizens come to the rescue of their governments, albeit not voluntarily.