Marc Warner: Letter writer overstates gains in 401K

Published: 1/14/2020 2:16:44 PM
Modified: 1/14/2020 2:15:56 PM

The Jan. 3 letter, “Don’t like Trump, check your 401K” overstates the president’s contribution to the state of the economy, and seems to ignore the moral dimensions that accompany Trump’s actions.

In regard to the first, perhaps it’s enough to point out that the U.S. stock market grew at a faster rate during the Obama presidency. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 44% during the first 35 months of Trump’s presidency, but 53% during the first 35 months of Obama’s.

Moreover, the Dow Jones went up 147% during the full eight years of Obama’s two terms, and the subsequent growth that the letter writer credits to Trump may be largely just an extrapolation of the trends and fundamentals created by his predecessor.

From this perspective, the 401K-focused letter writer may have himself been hypocritical by not extending this democratic achievement with a 2016 vote for Hillary Clinton.

As for the moral dimension, the letter writer should consider that his recent 401K gains are not a virtuous end that justifies any means. No one should ever, for example, excuse the utter injustice and depravity of slavery as an acceptable tradeoff for the prosperity of the American South before the Civil War.

Likewise, we should be mindful and morally troubled by personal gains that come at a significant and unfair cost to future Americans. They will bear the brunt of the higher national debt added by President Trump’s societally-unnecessary corporate tax cut, and the added misery from global warming hastened by his rollback of environmental policies.

The proper response to this moral concern, however, is not to empty our retirement plans of any gains since 2016 as the letter writer suggests; that makes as much sense as choosing not to drive on a highway that you opposed but that got built anyway. A more reasonable response is simply to vote for new leadership — an action I will take with gusto next November.

Marc Warner


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