Piggybanks

Do you think your retire­ment sav­ings are safe? Don’t be so sure. Megan McArdle thinks that Congress will likely go after your Roth IRA pig­gy­bank, among other hoards.

When I look at the bud­get prob­lems we face, I’m skep­ti­cal that Congress is going to live up to its promise to keep its hands off that money.  At the very least, I’d bet that high earn­ers are going to see some sort of sur­tax on their Roth withdrawals.

Of course, I think this is true of non-​​Roth retire­ment sav­ings as well.  Ultimately, Congress is going to be faced with penal­iz­ing peo­ple who didn’t save ade­quately for retire­ment by cut­ting their ben­e­fits, or penal­iz­ing peo­ple who did save, by rais­ing taxes on their sav­ings.  For a lot of rea­sons, I expect them to err on the side of penal­iz­ing savings.

She’s adjust­ing her sav­ings accordingly.

I’ve started think­ing about sav­ing in ways that Uncle Sam won’t be tempted to touch–like pay­ing off your house early, maybe buy­ing a vaca­tion home (for cash) if you know where you’re likely to want to spend a lot of time, and doing the kind of ren­o­va­tions that save you money in the long run–better insu­la­tion, higher-​​end energy-​​efficient appli­ances, etc.  Paying now to lower your monthly costs later may have a bet­ter after-​​tax return than that “tax free” account.

But, of course, Rep. Paul Ryan finally opened the seri­ous debate about our long-​​term bud­get, and President Obama is going to fol­low with a (hope­fully) seri­ous response later this. With this debate under­way, maybe future Congress won’t feel the need to touch our piggybanks.

After all, bubonic plague is natural.

Marion Nestle thinks that con­sumers don’t need food col­or­ing in their food. In an email exchange with Adam Ozimek, she explains:

MN: Since they are unnec­es­sary and decep­tive, I can’t see any rea­son to do any­thing to pro­tect their use.
AO: You say that food col­or­ing is “unnec­es­sary and decep­tive”. But couldn’t you say the same thing of essen­tially any gar­nish or cook­ing tech­nique designed to make food appear more appeal­ing with­out phys­i­cally mod­i­fy­ing the fla­vor?
MN: The issue is arti­fi­cial. Food gar­nishes and cook­ing tech­niques are usu­ally not.

Megan McArdle argues that the nat­ural ver­sus arti­fi­cial dichotomy presents a false choice.

Actually “nat­ural” foods would also come with things like toxic fun­gus and hor­ri­ble par­a­sites which–I guarantee–are much worse for chil­dren and other liv­ing things than arti­fi­cial food col­or­ing. “Natural” is not syn­ony­mous with “bet­ter for you”. It’s absolutely true that you’re prob­a­bly less likely to get fat if you eschew highly processed foods in the snack and cereal aisles. But over­sim­pli­fy­ing this mes­sage to “nat­ural good, arti­fi­cial bad” quickly turns ridiculous.