Bernard Wasow

Bernard Wasow is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and has worked for the New York Federal Reserve Bank and the Ford Foundation.

Recent Articles

Chile Con Economy?

In the early days of the U.S. debate about Social Security privatization, advocates would regularly trot out Latin America, Chile in particular, as the region that did it right, the model that the United States should learn from. Recently, though, this dog and pony have remained backstage, in spite of the Bush administration's current tour to promote private accounts. Unfortunately for the privatizers, the World Bank, one of the primary drivers of pension reform in Latin America, has backed away from its earlier enthusiasm. In a remarkable, if carefully guarded, retreat, the bank published a report in late 2004 that owns up to deep problems in the reforms that it pushed for a decade earlier. It is worth looking at these problems before we bring them on ourselves. In the 1990s, the World Bank persuaded Chile, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, and six other Latin American countries to reduce public pensions financed by current taxes in favor of mandatory private saving accounts...

Private Eyes

When it comes to pensions, President Bush's administration seems to practice a strange double standard: Private pensions are assumed to be superior to the current system simply because they are, well, private. And so the president has stuck adamantly to the line that the solution to Social Security's perceived problems is privatization. But in reality, Social Security is far from crisis. And the private-pension system is in serious trouble. When the government reports the numbers for Social Security in great detail every year, it uses consistently conservative methods; we can be as confident in these numbers as in any long-run forecast. The board of trustees charged with overseeing the system reports that benefits can be paid in full for 40 more years -- and, after that, more than 70 percent of promised benefits can be paid. By contrast, the numbers for private pension funding are not consistent, year to year or company to company. Unlike Social Security, companies have wide latitude...