Maybe the "K" in 401(k) stands for "krazy." That's how the 48 million Americans who own these retirement plans feel watching the stock market. One could argue that what they need most is fewer Enrons, but some in Congress say better investment advice from employers is the answer.
Right now, entrepreneurs can't bring in investment advisors to help workers allocate their pension plan assets because the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) makes employers liable for any advice given. The Retirement Security Advice Act (H.R. 2269), sponsored by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), would change that. Passed by the House, it eliminates the ERISA liability--though employers remain responsible for prudently selecting and reviewing the advisor.
Organized labor and some Democrats oppose the bill, saying that though it requires advisors to disclose fees and potential conflicts of interest, such disclosures would be provided in small type or technical language at a time separate from when workers are being advised.
H1-B or Not to Be
Rep. Thomas Tancredo (R-CO), chair of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, is pushing to drop the H1-B visa cap to 65,000 per year (from 195,000) and reduce it by 10,000 for every quarter percentage point the unemployment rate exceeds 6 percent. Companies use H1-B visas to bring in temporary workers from overseas who have advanced training in skills in short supply here. In the late 1990s, H1-B was a pipeline for information technology employees.
Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.