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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Kissing Your IRAs and 401ks Goodbye


Americans might be wise to prepare themselves for what might happen if the feds are permitted to continue spending and borrowing to their heart’s content, which of course they will be able to do if the debt ceiling is raised. At some point, the level of debt gets so high that no one is willing to lend the government any more money simply because the risk of default is too high. That’s what happened in Greece.

If things get to that point, people might well find themselves kissing their IRAs and 401ks goodbye. Why? Because a wounded, angry, voracious federal government, desperately in need of money to fund its welfare-warfare activities, might well go looking for large sums of ready cash to seize. And what juicier fruit than IRAs and 401ks?

That’s essentially what government officials in Argentina did when the government ran out of money and no one was willing to lend it any more. They just went out and nationalized people’s private retirement accounts.

And don’t forget that that’s essentially what FDR and his statist cronies did during the 1930s. They seized everyone’s gold and then made it a felony offense to possess gold, notwithstanding that gold coins (and silver coins) had been the nation’s official money for more than a century.

FDR and his merry band of looters got away with it. Oh, that’s not to say they didn’t pay for the gold. They did — with devalued paper money. Obama and his fellow statists undoubtedly would do something along the same lines after confiscating people’s retirement accounts. They’d give people debased and devalued U.S. bonds, which, they would tell people, are as good as gold.

Since the situation would inevitably involve a severe financial crisis, federal officials would inevitably cry the two magic words that would secure them the allegiance of the judiciary: “national security.” There would also be boisterous patriotic campaigns, much like FDR’s Blue Eagle campaign, that would condemn and ostracize those who objected to having their money stolen from them.

But protests would most likely be for naught, just as they were after Argentina’s nationalization of retirement accounts and FDR’s nationalization of gold. Given that federal officials have succeeded in ignoring important constraints in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, there’s little reason to think that they wouldn’t get away with ignoring the Fifth Amendment’s express prohibition against depriving people of property without due process of law too.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.