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Thursday, April 21, 2016

6 Mind-Blowing Tactical Products

From the site Life'd which say's "Guys like gadgets, whether for fun or for self-preservation. And when tech combines with tactical, it’s just cool. These days, with natural disasters seemingly on the rise and the threat of worldwide terrorism growing, keeping tactical gadgets handy is more than cool. It might be a necessary precaution. What do you carry now? Will it help you in state of emergency? Here are six tactical gadgets engineered for guys who want to be prepared for every day…and for when the pressure is on."

1. Shadowhawk X800 Tactical Flashlight

If Jason Bourne could pick his flashlight, this would be it. It packs military-grade LED technology into an aircraft-grade-aluminum-skinned cylinder. And it throws an astounding amount of light. You might be thinking that you already have a flashlight. But do the U.S. Navy Seals and the U.S. Coast Guard use the kind of flashlight you have? The Shadowhawk X800 can illuminate a field or blanket a work area with 800 lumens of glorious light. It can also blind an attacker. Don’t let its light weight trick you into thinking it’s not durable. Throw it, drive over it—it’ll still work. Drop it in six feet of water—it’ll still work. This tough gadget is also versatile. It comes with a strobe setting if you are stranded and need to signal for help, and you can zoom and focus its LED beam to see far, far away. The 3 AAA batteries give it 1,000 hours of life. That makes it ideal for reliable, abundant light during a prolonged natural disaster or emergency…and for lots of everyday uses. This is standard gear if you want to be prepared.

UrbanMan's Comment: I prefer the AA flashlights as they run longer than the powerful flashlight that use DL123 or the commonly called 3v surefire batteries. Plus AA rechargeable batteries that can be recharged with a solar panel are common place.

2. TrackR Bravo

When you attach this coin-size, James Bond-style tracking device to an item, you have a 20,000-times chance of getting it back if you lose it. The accompanying app enlists the help of network TrackR users to locate your lost bag, bike or dog. Last count, there were over 20,000 strong in their Crowd GPS. Of course, you will probably be able to get your wallet or whatever back on your own. The TrackR app will display how far you are from the keys or case you dropped, and it will sound the alarm to help you pinpoint its exact location. If you realize you left your bag after you travel to another location, all other TrackR users in the network are notified, and when one passes your missing article, you’ll get an update sent to your phone. What if you can’t find your phone? Use TrackR to ring it, even if it’s on silent mode, and you’ll find your phone fast. TrackR helps you keep your stuff…especially if you’re a chronic (keys/wallet/bike/car/bag) misplacer.

UrbanMan's Comment: This sounds useful, but if the internet is down such as in a collapse of the nation, you'll have just a useless little device.

3. Shadow X Dual Beam Lighter

This is the baddest lighter on the market since ZIPPO set the bar for badass lighters. It is engineered to make you look cool, and cool you will be wherever you break it out: bar, ball game, backpacking, hunting. In fact, it might be worth becoming a smoker just to use the lighter. (Don’t actually start smoking just to use the lighter.) Forget harmful butane, because that’s not its fuel. Pay no mind to rain because water does not affect it. Don’t worry about blocking the wind, because there is no flame to protect. Get that? There. Is. No. Flame. Just an electric current forming a hot X that ignites anything in its crosshairs. Tactical, practical and flat out cool. You recharge it via a USB and you ignite it by pressing a button. Keep it in your pocket for those times you need fire and want to look cool. Real cool.

UrbanMan's Comment: Hey, I'm always us for a new fire starter, but it needs to have replaceable batteries. If re-chargeable then a solar panel and cigarette plug adapter; will likely be needed.

4. Shadowhawk Military Tactical Laser

Another great gadget to have. It’s fun, it’s useful, and it could save your life. Simply speaking, it can help you point to that thing way over there, even half a mile away. Speaking from a safety standpoint, a blast of this beam of light can blind a person. Not recommended for use on friends, but on a would-be attacker or an intruder into your home, your Shadowhawk Military Tactical Laser lets you get all Star Wars on him. ZAP, and he’s on the ground or holding his eyes, letting you go to work on him or just get away. It’s also good in the woods if you ever lose your way. The powerful beam will point Search and Rescue to your exact origin. And on nights when you’re not walking the streets or wandering in the woods, your dog will get a kick out of chasing the laser point on the living room floor.

UrbanMan's Comment: This is a visible laser. A laser is useful for pointing out positions however a visible laser can also point out your position! Remember the old adage about tracer ammunition, works both ways.

5. TL900 LED Headlamp

This Tactical Headlamp is survival gear at its best. It blasts a massive 1000 lumen beam, enough to light a field, an emergency work area or a basement. With five settings, you can focus the beam to pinpoint targets at a distance of 500 meters! (That’s over 1640 feet…or 546 yards.) The design is the result of multiple attempts at perfection. It seems these guys have nailed it with a 90° pivoting spotlight and a completely water-resistant head unit. The beauty of this equipment, though, and what it makes it a top-tier tactical tool, is the hands-free capabilities it gives you. You never know into what situation you might be forced to work or search in the dark, and being able to freely use both hands could be the difference between success and failure…even in mundane use when there’s no pressure.

UrbanMan's Comment: Head lamps are useful, red and white lights specifically, but how about some battery info?

6. Garmin Tactix GPS Watch

This watch will not only make you look good, it will let you know when’s a good time to pull the chute. Even if you’re not a skydiver, the Garmin Tactix is gold for any guy who likes to go for a hike or to just explore the unbeaten path once in awhile. You can rely on Garmin’s GPS to get you home if things go awry. There’s even a TracBack feature. If you think you might lose your way, this is like virtual breadcrumbs, guiding you back to your origin along the path which you came. The design of the watch is not only sleek, but functional. The scratch-resistant lens is curved so there’s no reflection preventing you from reading the display. Even with night vision on, you can read the display which gives you real-time information about your surroundings including barometric and compass readings. It won’t, however, tell you when the boss is walking by your cubicle.

UrbanMan's Comment: I don't like GPS's. We have become a nation of people not comfortable with a map and compass. The watch feature is good for synchronizing times, etc., but a $20 timex will work for this.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Interview with Matt Bracken About SHTF and a Dirty Civil War

This is an older interview with Matt Bracken, former Navy SEAL and author of the Enemies Foreign and Domestic Trilogy and other novels as well. It was posted on Forward Observer.

Forward Observer is a group of current and former intelligence professionals and special operations soldiers who believe the country is on the downward trend of empires, in terms of security, liberty, economics, morality, military power, and influence. The next generation will inherit an America — they will inherit a world — very different from the one its grandparents had. Forward Observer uses Open Source Intelligence, or OSINT, information to reduce uncertainty for our subscribers. We describe the future of America one intelligence report at a time and better prepare our subscribers for this nation’s turbulent future. The well inforemd Prepper should book mark the Forward Observer (FO) site and make it a scheduled stop on their daily or weekly analysis of current events and information mining efforts.


FO: What are some of the threats that pro-Liberty Americans will see in the next few years, and what can we expect? More lawfare? Actual conflict? A fight for the Republic?

MB: All Americans face the risk of chaos, anarchy and starvation resulting from the collapse of our electrical grid. Electricity has become our oxygen, necessary to sustain our civilization, and I see at least a dozen ways it could be disrupted with catastrophic results. To the extent that pro-liberty Americans are also “preppers,” they will be better prepared to face the dire consequences.

Absolutely I see “lawfare” by our rogue federal agencies against patriots continually ramping up. With no consequences resulting from scandals such as Fast and Furious and the targeting of patriots by the IRS, Team Tyranny feels emboldened and will only make life harder for those who defy them.

As far as an actual fight for the republic, it could happen, for example, after a hypothetical future Waco incident. In that case, I could envision federal agents being lured into ambushes and so on. The ambushes could be false flag operations or actual attacks by frustrated Americans, but the result could be a shooting war, with patriots being “disappeared” on one side of the ledger, and federal agents and officials being assassinated on the other. This would probably turn into a “dirty civil war” similar to what happened in Northern Ireland or Argentina in the 1970s, but obviously on a far more vast scale.

FO: You mention that there are at least a dozen ways that our electrical grid could be disrupted. What do you see as the most likely causes for grid-down?

MB: Anything from a solar flare to a cyber-war with a national entity could take down the grid. In the event of a civil war, there will be a strong urban vs. rural dynamic, and one way that rural participants will strike at their urban antagonists will be to strike at the grid carrying power to the cities. The Metcalf power station incidents in California last year seem to have been a dry run or proof of concept drill. A dozen teams of riflemen could put our grid at danger with a coordinated attack.

Groups from the former Sendero Luminoso in Peru to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico to Al Qaeda in Yemen have attacked major power grids. In America, we have allowed electricity to become our oxygen, and it’s naive to expect that in any type of future war, (civil, international, or terrorist), antagonists will not attempt to cut off that oxygen and kill their enemies en masse. Our power grid is our exposed jugular vein.

FO: What are the best ways Patriots can protect themselves during this time? How long might a “dirty civil war” last?

MB: If [Social Network Analysis] is used to target patriots–and it will be– then there is not much anyone can do for self-protection, other than move to an area where Federal Law Enforcement Agents (FLEA) are afraid to operate, if such places will even exist. Nobody will be able to live a normal life if there is the constant risk of a Soviet KGB- style arrest by plain-clothed teams of anonymous agents. My goal is to remind [law enforcement officers] and especially the FLEAs to think very hard about following orders facilitating secret arrests. The blow-back against all of them and their collaborator for employing Gestapo tactics against Americans will be incredibly ferocious.

Once patriots begin to disappear, Rule 308 will be used against any identifiable FLEA targets, and the dirty civil war will turn into a nightmare that could last for years. There is no way to predict which side would win, or what America might look like at the end. But once a war of secret arrests and assassinations begins, it will be very hard to stop.v

My goal with much of my writing is to warn all potential sides that a dirty civil war must be avoided if at all possible. The only thing worse than a dirty civil war would be America turning into a Soviet-style totalitarian dictatorship. Uncounted millions of scoped deer rifles tell me that turning American into a dictatorship would be almost impossible, and I hope that the FLEAs who might study this Q&A also give my short story “What I Saw at The Coup” and my essay “Dear Mr. Security Agent” a very close reading. The shape of the next few years will depend largely on the honor and integrity of our LEOs and FLEAs, and how strongly or weakly they adhere to their oaths to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

FO: What’s your take on the current militarization of the police? Are these police MRAPs just a useful way to re-purpose military vehicles or something worse? What roles do you see the police taking in any Constitutional crisis?

MB: Federal LEAs are attempting to co-opt local law enforcement agencies, turning them into their “grunts” for perimeter security around federal actions and other duties where sufficient armed manpower is required. There are simply not enough federal agents to conduct all of the raids they might envision conducting, and also at the same time provide all-around security for the federal agents from potentially enraged local citizens.

[Mine Resistant Ambush Proof vehicles], latest generation night vision and commo gear and so on are the “gifts” that the feds are be- stowing upon local LEAs in order to make them dependent upon federal largess and beholden to federal masters. In the near term this strategy might be effective, but in the event that an actual dirty civil war is ignited, the loyalty of local LE to their FLEA masters cannot be assured. At the least, some constitutionally-minded local LEOs will warn patriots of planned raids and arrests, resulting in FLEAs being ambushed on the way to their targets, or at their targets.

Look to Mexico today to see what an American dirty civil war will look like. It will be impossible to tell the genuine “on duty” LEOs from “off duty” LEOs in so-called death squads, from criminals posing as LEOs. This would obviously be an extremely dangerous environment for freedomistas, as we see today in Mexico.

FO: We see Suburbia is kind of trapped between Rural and Urban. What do you think the suburban spaces will look like during conflict?

MB: Not all suburbs are alike, obviously. A suburb located between Asheville, NC and the mountains is not the same as a suburb located between megacities in the DC-Boston corridor. In general, I agree with the hypothesis of the book “A Failure of Civility.” A well-located suburban subdivision offers enough manpower to mount a guard force, as well as containing a useful collection of skills from doctors to electricians. During the Dark Ages the walled city or town was the best model for success. Farmers did not live in distant, lonely farm houses; it was simply too dangerous to be that isolated.

FO: What’s your message to those who have no bug-out plan out of urban or suburban areas? What advice can you offer about sheltering in place?

MB: Stocking up on food and water might be critical for surviving a short catastrophe or power outage, so it is something that is well worth doing. If the power stays out for months or longer, “bugging in” won’t work. If the environment is too dangerous to permit safe travel, then all of the food that is consumed must be generated within your own zip code. How many American zip codes generate enough food, right now, to ensure the survival of their inhabitants? What if those food sources are without electricity, fuel, or needed chemicals during the growing season? In any case, if the power goes out, the food will stop moving. Starvation will begin in just a few weeks, while it will take months or years to start new agricultural projects at the local level.

If you must shelter in place in suburbia, I’d recommend following the advice in [A Failure of Civility]. Attempt to interest your neighbors in preparing for various scenarios. No single house in suburbia can become a successful fortress. Suburbs must be defended at their gates, with a quick reaction force ready to respond. Former military buddies in your neighborhood might become the nucleus of the nascent defense force. I cannot recommend the book “A Failure of Civility” highly enough.

Fast-foward: we have a domestic conflict over a Constitutional issue. What happens to the military? What’s your opinion on how they align themselves with the regime or with Freedom Forces?

I cling to the hope that most of the military will not be willing to perform raids upon American homes. However, they will be capable of following most general orders and they will be effective at cordoning towns and cutting off travel options, which can be just as deadly if the cordon means that local inhabitants can neither leave nor bring in food supplies. A pandemic resulting in city-wide quarantines is one easy to imagine scenario. Soldiers don’t need to shoot you to kill you. They can pin you in place until you starve to death. Ask the Ukrainians. For actual raids and assaults upon American citizens, the military and FLEAs will develop units made up of individuals selected for their loyalty to the federal government, and their willingness (or even eagerness) to shoot “enemies of the people.” Social Network Analysis will not only be useful for finding and targeting “enemies of the state,” it will also be extremely useful for locating the sociopathic killers among the wider military, LE, and prison populations (gang members).

These willing killers can then be brought together into very dangerous “hunter-killer teams” to do the dirty “wet work” required by Team Tyranny. In the event of a grid collapse, most members of the military and LE will desert at the first opportunity, in order to take care of their own families. In the event of an economic collapse, they will also desert if they are not paid, or if they are paid in meaningless scrip with no purchasing power.

FO: Many members of the special operations community hear the call to defend Liberty at home. If conflict is inevitable, where do these former leaders fit in?

MB: I believe that the Constitution will remain our most important defensive bulwark. The Constitution will be our most effective litmus test for separating the oath takers from the traitorous oath breakers. Former military and LE leaders should take every opportunity to remind their active duty brothers of their sworn oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They should also politely remind them that Team Liberty will have a very long memory when it comes to dealing with traitors. There will be no statute of limitations for traitors, and justice might eventually be dealt out under the well-known Rule 308. Loyalty to the Constitution must be a constant theme, both among friends and on social media. No active member of the military or LE will be permitted to plead ignorance when it comes to upholding the Constitution. We must remind them of that fact as often as possible, until it is ringing in their ears.

FO: What are a few things outside of physically and mentally preparing that Patriots can do to help the fight for Liberty right now?

MB: Unless one’s personal strategy is to remain a “gray man,” or in effect an unknown “stay behind agent,” patriots should be loud voices for liberty both in person and in social media. Don’t cower in fear of Team Tyran- ny. Social Network Analysis means that they already know who you are, where you live, and what your views are. Take every opportunity to stand up for freedom and liberty, and make the Constitution your byword. Take every opportunity to remind active military and LE that we expect them to uphold their sworn oaths to defend the Constitution, and that we are paying very careful attention to the oath breakers among them. The boys and girls down in the fusion centers must be made to understand very clearly that they will be held accountable for their actions, and that “I was just following orders” will not be an acceptable excuse for acting against the Constitution as the minions of Team Tyranny.

FO: You’re a big proponent of hitting the water to escape civil unrest. Why do you prefer that to a rural retreat or a mountain location?

MB: Rural retreats, once located, are too easy to besiege with sniper tactics and other means. FLEAs actually prefer it when patriots move to remote locations: it makes them easy to isolate and eventually they can wind up in a Waco or Ruby Ridge situation.

On the other hand, all of the oceans are connected. A forty-foot sailboat can carry enough food and water to last its crew for months. A sailboat can leave port and wait out a pandemic or social disorder while spending weeks or even months at sea before returning, or a sailboat can voyage non-stop to another country or even to another continent where conditions might be better. Obviously, sailing is not a viable option for everybody. It requires some physical stamina and agility, and a resistance to motion sickness.

FO: What are the most likely threats you’ll face while bugging out on a boat? What are your expectations?

MB: Once at sea and more than 50 or 100 miles from land, the ocean becomes a very low threat environment. Oceans are so vast that the odds of randomly crossing the path of another vessel are astronomically small. Post SHTF, few will be out wasting precious fuel motoring around the oceans looking for random prey. Pirates (including those wearing uniforms with numbers on their bows) always congregate near ports and will transit mainly along coasts. Near land, a speedboat can obviously overtake a sailboat. Get- ting clear of the coasts and gaining the anonymity of the open ocean is always the first priority during dangerous times.

In the event that a motor vessel with superior armaments does spot a sailboat and determine to attack it, the sailboat is going to be in a very tough situation. However, this “worst case” (and very unlikely) ocean scenario is no worse than being besieged on land in a remote rural retreat. The other big risk comes in port, when corrupt officials might decide to take your boat under color of law. But being able to cross oceans means having the flexibility to leave a dangerous or corrupt nation and sail directly to a safer place. Or leave a very dangerous state in America, and sail directly to another one. For example, during a SHTF scenario, a sailboat could easily transit directly from New York to Texas, while that same trip might be impossible by road.

A 40-foot sailboat could leave Florida, gain the safety of the open ocean, and next make port weeks later in Iceland or Argentina. Imagine how far a 40 foot RV, loaded with sup- plies, would make it on the inter- states after the SHTF. Not very far, with road blockages, check points, and ambushes around every curve. A sailboat over the horizon on the open ocean has effectively disappeared from the grid matrix. It can also reappear at the moment and the location of its choosing.

FO: In your book, Domestic Enemies: The Reconquista, you write about a concerted effort by enemies to re-conquer the American Southwest. Although it’s “fictional”, your writing tends to foretell non-fictional events. Where are we right now in the Reconquista conflict and what happens next?

MB: The Southwest is now in a death spiral as far as liberty, freedom and prosperity go. Several generations of anti-American and pro-Aztlan radicals have graduated from universities across the Southwest, and today they are judges, federal attorneys, district attorneys, FLEAs, mayors and police chiefs. This allows them to take leftist “lawfare” to a much higher and very dangerous level. Witness the Reese case in Deming, New Mexico: it is a model for future abuses of official power. Ideologically motivated federal attorneys are able to cherry pick judges who are fellow travelers, with the outcomes of selected cases preordained. This corruption of official power will get worse and worse, until patriots either flee the South- west, surrender, or retaliate in anger, leading to a “dirty civil war.”

The anti-American cabal largely running the Southwest today is fully committed to open borders and amnesty citizenship for illegal aliens. We are well past the demographic tipping points. The Southwest will become more and more like Mexico: extremely dangerous and totally corrupt. As I mentioned above, soon we will see assassinations and ambushes by shadowy groups that might be made up of cartel killers, or “off-duty” policemen, or federal agents, or a very dirty combination of them. Study the Reese case very carefully: it shows the future. Corrupt police shielded drug cartel smuggling routes in Luna County, New Mexico. Corrupt police were blackmailed by ideologically corrupt ATF and FBI agents into providing libelous testimony in order to railroad the Reese family. The false and fabricated case was put forward by corrupt leftist federal attorneys to corrupt leftist judges. Leftist reporters in the media turned a blind eye to the ideological corruption. Justice is effectively dead in New Mexico. What is waiting around the corner ahead of us is a fatally corrupt Southwest that is indistinguishable from the worst of Mexico. There is no turning back from that outcome that I can see.

FO: In our previous issue, we took a look at Balkanization and secession. Where do you see America in another 10 or 20 years? What do the political structures and geographic boundaries look like?

MB: There are many potential outcomes, one being a post-apocalyptic landscape resembling my short story “Alas, Brave New Babylon.” Unfortunately, I see almost every scenario resulting in attacks against the power grid, and the consequences will be hard to imagine if our electricity is cut for even a few weeks. If we somehow manage to avoid a grid- down scenario, I think that America will follow in the footsteps of the Soviet Union in terms of possessing a decrepit nuclear deterrent, with a collapsed economy that will not support superpower-level military operations either abroad or at home. If the troops cannot be paid in a currency of value, they will not follow orders. We may eventually devolve into “Argentina with nukes.”

Something like the scenario in my novel “Foreign Enemies and Traitors” is possible: a regional breakup, with Washington DC only in full control of a rump USA, mainly in the Northeast. The Southwest will resemble Mexico: corrupt to the marrow and far too dangerous for anyone to live a normal life. The Northwest and the South might do better, depending on how the collapse and breakup proceeds. On paper, the United States might still have 50 states, but I don’t think that Washington will be able to dictate terms to all of them. Federal taxes will not be collected, and the remaining federal forces will mainly be situated around Washington DC and the Northeast corridor, to protect the nominal national leadership.

But if at some point the power grid is taken down, our cities will explode, and all bets are off. If people don’t have time to read my long novels, I wish that they would read “Alas, Brave New Babylon,” “What I Saw at the Coup,” and the other short works on the Bracken Anthology. Links to the individual essays and stories are located on my website gratis. I hope this Q&A encourages people to read them. These are extremely dangerous times. Forewarned is forearmed.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Saving For Retirement Before Collapse

What prompted me to write this article is that I just finished reading a report titled "Not As Many Americans Saving For Retirement", where it was reported that during a survey of 15,000 people in their 40's, less than half of them had more than $10,000 investment in retirement accounts or saved in a conventional manner for retirement.

This is not good news, either for the continuation of Life As We Know it or for The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI). Some readers will think "why is Urban Survival Skills writing about retirement?...I want to read about guns, gear and surviving the collapse". I fully understand that, but I look at many different financial and investment resources in order to provide indicators of where the financial collapse might start,.....will it be a slow devaluation of the dollar and rise in prices of commodities?....will it be a food based collapse where the dollar value becomes inflated? Could it be a cash crunch if the Government nationalizes our 401K and other savings accounts?

People are investing fiat currency into on paper financial assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, 401K plans, etc. This is a crap shoot as far as building wealth, makes it hard to divest yourself and re-coup cash on short order and does nothing to cover the possibility of a collapse where transfer or access to these paper assets will produce just pennies on the dollars of your investment at best, or just a memory of lost wealth at worst.

People really need to consider developing a good balance between tangible and intangible assets. I reduced my payroll contributions to my 401K to the minimum necessary to obtain the employer matching funds. I took the money freed up every two weeks and split that into precious metal purchases (primary silver bullion) and began working off a list of things I want to improve for my preps,....ammunition, bulk long term storage food, non-hybred seeds packs, on hand cash, some surplus military gear including a large box of two quart canteen and rain suits which I discovered on the cheap and purchased intended as barter items.

Anyway, lets look at the possibility of the Government ruining your conventional retirement plans. The article below is from Ryan Guina, titled "Can the US Government Seize Your 401k or IRA?"

Last year, the Irish government passed a law which placed a 0.6% levy on assets held in private pensions for each of the next 4 years. The Irish tax on private pensions was made in response to a larger financial crisis and the need to increase government revenues. Ireland isn’t the only country in recent history to seize private investments. Hungary, Argentina and France have all overhauled their private and public pension plans in recent years, in some cases seizing them in their entirety, and in others, taxing them to oblivion. There have been recent discussions of something similar in the United States, which brings up a good question – are private pensions and retirement plans in the US also at risk?

Is Your 401k or IRA in Danger of Government Seizure?

Can the government take your 401k? Will the government scramble your nest egg?

Lets get one thing out of the way first: unless you have an IRS lien or other legal judgment against you, the US Government has no legal standing to seize the contents of your private retirement account, such as your 401k, IRA, Thrift Savings Plan, your self-employed retirement plan, or any other retirement plan.

Can the government take your 401k? Absolutely. But not without changing the laws, and in this case, it would take an act of Congress for the US Government to be able to seize your retirement funds. That means it would need to get through Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court before it would happen. And getting past the Supreme Court is where I see there being big problems – keep in mind that ownership of private property was one of the founding principles of our country. It is very difficult for the government to seize private property at will. The government can, and does, seize private property, but only in rare cases and through a legal process called eminent domain, which is when land or other property is seized “for the greater good.” However, the government is required to pay fair market value for whatever they seize.

The above is a simplified explanation of eminent domain, which is a highly complex and much debated topic. I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think eminent domain would be a legal basis for seizing retirement accounts. Taxation, however, is a different topic, and the government can easily change tax laws.

What about the rumors of a government takeover?

Every few years there are rumors that a particular administration wants to seize private retirement funds, and so far it hasn’t happened. The rumors come in different flavors and several ideas have even been proposed before Congress. For example, the Clinton Administration proposed a one time tax against the value of private pensions, 401k plans and IRAs.

A more recent proposal involves seizing and converting a portion of privately held assets into US Treasury bonds. A more extreme proposal is a true government takeover of retirement plans which involves seizing private retirement accounts and converting them to government sponsored annuities that would guarantee and annual income for all Americans.

What basis is given for a takeover of retirement plans?

There are many reasons given to support these ideas, and the most frequently given reasons circle around the idea that converting some or all of the privately held investments into an annuity or into Treasury bonds would protect Americans from themselves and possible market fluctuations and guarantee an income for retirees. In essence, the government believes it can do a better job of managing your retirement funds than you can.

The reality is these proposals would represent a redistribution of wealth and further extend the problem that got the government in trouble in the first place writing IOUs. Seizing pensions or retirement plans now and replacing them with a Government Treasury bonds or a government sponsored annuity simply gives the government money to spend now and passes the problem on to a future generation. It also goes against the reason private retirement plans were created.

The purpose of retirement plans-

Let’s back up and look at the purpose of 401k plans, IRAs, and other retirement plans. These retirement plans maintain a special tax status and were created for a specific reason: to entice more people to save on their own because Social Security benefits do not pay enough for most retirees.

Social Security is not intended to be a full retirement plan for everyone; it is intended to help people through retirement. Several decades ago Congress was smart enough to realize that people needed to take more of their retirement planning into their own hands, so they created the tax incentives we know today as the 401k plan, IRA, and similar retirement plans. The special tax rules found in these retirement plans provide an incentive for people to take care of their own retirement planning and not rely on the government for 100% of their retirement needs.

How retirement plans affect the government-

Retirement plans are good. They provide retirees with a source of income and in many cases help keep people off government benefits. For example, Medicaid eligibility is age and income based, starting at age 65. Social Security benefits are also taxable for retirees who meet a certain income threshold. So retirees receiving enough income from their retirement savings stay off Medicaid and pay taxes on their 401k withdrawals and Social Security benefits, both of which help the government.

While retirement plans help the government, they can also hurt it in other ways. In the case of retirement investing, what is good for investors can be bad of the US government. The tax benefits offered by retirement plans limit or defer the income tax the government collects, to the tune of billions of dollars per year.

For example, Traditional IRAs and 401k plans offer investors an immediate tax break on contributions and the proceeds are taxed when the money is withdrawn in retirement age – often deferring income tax for decades. Roth IRAs and 401ks are the opposite, with the contributions being made after taxes have been assessed, and the withdrawals and income growth being tax free. These tax benefits are the reason there are contribution limits on IRAs and other retirement plans. Without contribution limits, the government would severely limit their income tax receipts.

What will the government do with private retirement plans?

Will the US Government seize private retirement plans? The simple answer is, we don’t know. It’s very possible the government could pass a law that seizes every private pension and retirement plan in the US and replaces it with a government annuity to be paid out once retirees reach a certain age. It’s also possible they will do nothing and leave things as-is. My guess is the government won’t “seize” retirement plans like other governments have, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see things will change.

Let’s face it, our government is hurting. There are huge gaps in our fiscal policy and unless we see changes soon, something major will happen, possibly even the collapse of the dollar and our economy. But seizing private pensions wouldn’t solve that problem, and in fact, it could be seen a as sign of weakness by the global economy and hasten the fall of the US Dollar compared to other currencies. Additionally, seizing private retirement plans would be political suicide for politicians.

What changes might we see to retirement plans?

We can’t see into the future so all we can do is speculate. I don’t see the government seizing retirement funds from private individuals. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the government make changes to the number and scope of retirement plans. But this would probably be a gradual change and old plans would likely remain grandfathered in.

For example,the US government could decide to decrease retirement plan contribution limits, lower the income eligibility threshold, or eliminate some retirement plans altogether. But even if they do this, they would likely grandfather in current contributions, meaning your retirement plans in their current state would be safe.

What can we do to prepare for our retirement?

Right now I don’t think there is anything to be scared about. We can’t control the future, so the best course of action is to continue preparing the best we can based on the information we have at hand. This means to continue making investments based on current tax laws, while being mindful of possible changes. Personally, I am preparing for retirement by investing in my 401k and IRA, and I am also investing in taxable (non-retirement) investments when I can. It is wise to be aware of possible changes to tax laws, but I don’t think it’s wise to let fear and unsubstantiated rumors drive one’s investments and retirement planning. So I will continue investing responsibly, and I will keep an eye on the news.

Urban Man-