Warnings of Concentrated Power of Despotic Establishment – W. J. Federer

Warnings of Concentrated Power of Despotic Establishment

American Minute

William J. Federer

    On OCTOBER 15, 1788, James Madison warned:

“As the COURTS are generally the last in making the decision, it results to them, by refusing or not refusing to execute a law, to stamp it with its final character. This makes the Judiciary department paramount in fact to the Legislature, which was NEVER intended and can NEVER be proper.”

       On OCTOBER 15, 1991, the U.S. Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas as a Justice on the Supreme Court.

When questioned during the hearings by Senator Thurmond regarding judicial activism, Clarence Thomas replied:

            “The role of a judge is a limited one. It is to … interpret the Constitution, where called upon, but AT NO POINT to impose his or her will or … opinion in that process.”

    Thomas Jefferson wrote to Abigail Adams, September 11, 1804:

“Nothing in the Constitution has given them (judges) a right to decide for the Executive, more than to the Executive to decide for them …

The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional … not only for themselves in their own sphere of action, but for the legislature and executive … would make the judiciary a DESPOTIC BRANCH.”

    Webster’s 1828 Dictionary included in it definition of “Despotic”:

“DESPOTIC: ABSOLUTE and ARBITRARY AUTHORITY … Absolute in power … Arbitrary in the exercise of power … Unlimited and uncontrolled by men, constitution or laws, and depending alone on the will of the despot.”

Thomas Jefferson to William Jarvis, September 28, 1820:

“You seem … to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the DESPOTISM of an oligarchy …”

     Jefferson continued:

“Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so …. and their power (is) the more dangerous, as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control.

The Constitution has erected NO SUCH SINGLE TRIBUNAL, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with corruptions of time and party, its members would become DESPOTS.”

    President William Henry Harrison warned in his Inaugural Address, 1841:

“The great danger to our institutions does … appear to me to be … the accumulation in one of the departments of that which was assigned to others. Limited as are the powers which have been granted, still enough have been granted to constitute a DESPOTISM if concentrated in one of the departments.”

World War I fighter Ace Eddie Rickenbacker, who was owner of the Indianapolis Speedway and Eastern Airlines, told the Chicago Economic Club in 1961 (Eddie Rickenbacker: An American Hero in the Twentieth Century, by W. David Lewis, The John Hopkins University Press, 2005):

“Every time the liberals discover a brand new misinterpretation of the Constitution, every time they invent a new way to circumvent the constitutional limits of the Federal power, they pile up more power in Washington at the expense of individual liberty across the land.”

     Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, 1835, warned:

“The President, who exercises a limited power, may err without causing great mischief in the State. Congress may decide amiss without destroying the Union, because the electoral body in which Congress originates may cause it to retract its decision by changing its members. But IF THE SUPREME COURT is ever composed of IMPRUDENT MEN or BAD CITIZENS, the Union may be plunged into ANARCHY or CIVIL WAR.” 

The Union was plunged into a Civil War by Democrat appointed Justice Roger Taney, who gave the Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857 that slaves were not citizens, but property.

     President Abraham Lincoln alluded to this decision in his First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861:

“I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court … The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made … THE PEOPLE will have CEASED to be THEIR OWN RULERS, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of the eminent tribunal.”

     Jefferson warned Mr. Hammond in 1821:

“The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in … the federal judiciary; an irresponsible body … working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be USURPED from the States.”

    Jefferson lamented, September 6, 1819:

“The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”

    Jefferson explained to Supreme Court Justice William Johnson, June 12, 1823:

“On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be SQUEEZED OUT out of the text, or INVENTED AGAINST IT, conform to the probable one in which it was passed … But the Chief Justice says, ‘There must be an ULTIMATE ARBITER somewhere.’ True, there must … The ULTIMATE ARBITER is THE PEOPLE.””

 

The Tennessee Supreme Court stated in Carden v. Bland, March 9, 1956:

“Great stress is laid upon the need of maintaining the doctrine of ‘separation of church and state’ … but it should not be tortured into a meaning that was never intended by the Founders of this Republic, with the result that the public school system of the several states is to be made a Godless institution.”

    Baron Montesquieu, the most quoted writer by the Framers of the Constitution, warned of the dangers of uncontrolled judicial power in his Spirit of the Laws, 1748:

“Nor is there liberty if the power of JUDGING is not separated from legislative power and from executive power. If it were joined to legislative power, the power over life and liberty of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the JUDGE would be the legislator. If it were joined to executive power, the JUDGE could have the force of an oppressor. ALL WOULD BE LOST if the same … body of men … exercised these three powers.”

 

Mercy Otis Warren in wrote in Observations on the new Constitution, & on the Federal and State Conventions, 1788:

“The origin of all power is in the people … They have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation … And if certain selected bodies of men … determine contrary to the wishes and expectations of their constituents, the people have an undoubted right to reject their decisions.”
Regarding the danger of concentrated power, Colonial leader John Cotton stated:

“For WHATEVER transcendent POWER IS GIVEN, will certainly OVER-RUN those that GIVE IT … It is necessary therefore, that all power that is on earth be limited.”

    James Madison stated at the Constitutional Convention, 1787:

“All men having POWER ought to be distrusted.”

    John Adams wrote in his Notes from an oration at Braintree, Massachusetts, Spring 1772:

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with the power to endanger the public liberty.”

President George Washington stated in his Farewell Address, September 17, 1796:

“And of fatal tendency … to put, in the place of the delegated will of the Nation, the will of a party – often a small but artful and enterprising minority …

They are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to SUBVERT the POWER OF THE PEOPLE and to USURP for themselves the reins of Government; destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

President Andrew Jackson, July 10, 1832, stated in his Bank Renewal Bill Veto:

“It is easy to conceive that great evils to our country and its institutions might flow from such a CONCENTRATION OF POWER in the hands of a few men irresponsible to the people. Mere precedent is a dangerous source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of constitutional power.”

    James Madison summed up the dilemma in Federalist Paper #51:

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

    President Andrew Jackson stated in his Seventh Annual Message, December 7, 1835:

“All history tells us that a free people should be watchful of delegated power, and should never acquiesce in a practice which will diminish their control over it.”

Lord Acton, April 5, 1887, wrote in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton:

“All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

President Woodrow Wilson stated in 1912:

“Concentration of power always precedes the destruction of human liberties.”

Yale President Ezra Stiles
stated in 1783:

“Most states of all ages … have been founded in rapacity, usurpation and injustice …

    The Nimrods … (were) the first invading tyrants of the ancient ages … The spirit of conquest had changed the first governments …

All succeeding ones have in general proved one continued series of injustice, which has reigned in all countries for almost 4,000 years.”

Boasting of concentrated power, King James I told Parliament in 1609:

“Kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon earth and sit upon God’s throne, but even by God himself they are called gods …

Kings are compared to the head … of the body of man …

It is sedition in subjects to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power …

The king is overlord of the whole land, so is he master over every person that inhabiteth the same, having power over the life and death of every one of them … so the power flows always from himself.”

     France’s Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” reportedly stated:

“It is legal because I wish it.”

“I am the State” (“L’État, c’est moi”).

 

Santa Anna declared himself Mexico’s dictator-for-life and insisted he be addressed by the title “Most Serene Highness.” He wrote to U.S. minister to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett:

“A hundred years to come my people will not be fit for liberty … a despotism is the proper government for them.”

Franklin Roosevelt stated of Stalin, February 10, 1940:

“The Soviet Union … is run by a dictatorship as absolute as any other dictatorship in the world.”

Describing America’s colonial founding, President Franklin Roosevelt stated in 1939:

“Rulers … increase(d) their power over the common men. The seamen they sent to find gold found instead the way of escape for the common man from those rulers.”

 

     Yale President Ezra Stiles stated in 1783:

“All the forms of civil polity have been tried by mankind, except one: and that seems to have been reserved in Providence to be realized in America.”

President Millard Fillmore, December 6, 1852, explained of America’s founding freedoms:

“They were planted in the free charters of self-government under which the English colonies grew up …

European nations have had no such training for self-government, and every effort to establish it by bloody revolutions has been, and must without that preparation continue to be, a failure.”

     President Franklin Pierce stated in his Inaugural Address, March 4, 1853:

“The dangers of a CONCENTRATION OF ALL POWER in the General government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded …

Liberty rests upon a proper distribution of power between the State and Federal authorities.”

    President William Henry Harrison stated in his Inaugural, March 4, 1841:

“The TENDENCY OF POWER TO INCREASE ITSELF, particularly when exercised by a single individual … would terminate in virtual monarchy.”

    President Harry S Truman stated April 3, 1951:

“Without a firm moral foundation, freedom degenerates quickly into selfishness and … anarchy. Then there will be freedom only for the rapacious and … more unscrupulous than the rank and file of the people.”

     President James Monroe stated in his Inaugural 1817:

“When the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate … they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. USURPATION is then an easy attainment, and an USURPER soon found.”

    President George Washington stated in his Farewell Address, 1796:

“USURPATION … though … in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

Secretary of State Daniel Webster stated in 1852:

“Are we of this generation so derelict, have we so little of the blood of our revolutionary fathers coursing through our veins, that we cannot preserve, what they achieved?

The world will cry out ‘shame’ upon us, if we show ourselves unworthy, to be the descendants of those great and illustrious … men, who fought for their liberty, and secured it to their posterity, by the Constitution of the United States …”

   Webster concluded:

“The Constitution has enemies, secret and professed …

Friends of the Constitution must rally and unite …

I hardly know … the manner of our political death …

    We shall die no lingering death … An earthquake would shake the foundations of the globe, pull down the pillars of heaven, and bury us at once in endless darkness. May I never live, to see that day!

    May I not survive to hear any apocalyptic angel, crying through the heavens, with such a voice as announced the fall of Babylon.”

Bill Federer

wjfederer@gmail.com

314-502-8924

Lies and Deceptions Accompanying Atrocity

Lies and Deceptions Accompanying Atrocity

            Repeating the statement from our article on The Myth That Climate Change Created Harvey, Irma, “The [mass slaughter in Las Vegas] drew the liberal elite, pundits, and politicians out of their holes. Spewing the continuous lies and deceptions promoting their liberal agenda, they again ignore [truth, reality,] and valid history.”. Following the horrible tragedy accompanying the sounds of evil raining down on the innocent in Las Vegas, the same irrational voices, moving beyond reason, place blame on the weapons used to commit crimes rather than the cause of the evils that have plagued humanity throughout history.

            Stephen Paddock is a perfect example of why gun control legislation or any attempt to legislate morality will never work. He was entirely off the grid. More, all studies have shown that criminals obtain illegal weapons illegally. How hard is that to understand???? Hitler’s medical experiment atrocities pale compared to partial birth abortion!!!!!

Confirming their unjust, morally bankrupt political agendas promoting their attack on America, those who choose to ignore truth and reality continue to try to blame the President for even this. As God used Cyrus, the President elected by a political miracle has attempted to keep every promise he made to the American people during his campaign. His fight with the political establishment, both Republican and Democrat, in his attempt to “drain the swamp” is only partially reflective of the intention of the moral majority electing him trying to free itself from the slavery of the culture of unrighteousness corrupting and contaminating this one Nation under God.

CftC

 

Here’s the Truth About Gun Control and Crime

Jarrett Stepman

2 October, 2017

            “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get”, Hillary Clinton tweeted, adding, “Our grief isn’t enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again”.

            The horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas began around 10 p.m. local time, or 1 a.m. EST. Eight hours later, Clinton dropped her tweets.

And she wasn’t the only one to quickly promote gun control in light of the terrible news about the shooting, which has left at least 58 dead and another 500 wounded.

While the facts are still entirely unsettled as of this writing, that didn’t stop gun control activists from immediately jumping to conclusions or answers on how to fix everything.

And while too little is known about the Las Vegas shooting to make judgments about what could or could not have prevented it, the reality is that gun ownership does not lead to more crime in the United States.

Yet, in the chaotic wake of the horrific mass shooting that took the lives of at least 50 in Las Vegas, proponents of gun control quickly turned the event to fit their agenda.

For instance, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., accused those who didn’t act on shootings of “cowardice.”

Other lawmakers on the left weighed in as well. And, there were numerous other hot takes from nonelected politicos and celebrities that veered into various levels of blaming gun rights supporters for allowing events like Las Vegas to happen.

And all of this before even the most basic facts have been ascertained. The Associated Press reported that ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting, but the FBI says there is no connection. The details of the case are simply a confusing mess and it is difficult to ascertain the shooter’s motives, how he acquired the firearm(s), or even what firearm(s) he used to conduct the attack.

While it is unwise to draw too many conclusions about what happened in Las Vegas, in the face of the relentless assault on gun rights and misinformation it is important to note some false narratives that have been spread in the last 24 hours.

Take Clinton’s claim about silencers. She was immediately denounced for this statement as being “ignorant” of how suppressors work. Even a Washington Post reporter wrote that the debate over silencers “isn’t really relevant” to what happened in Las Vegas.

And, both The Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler and conservative pundit Dana Loesch pushed back on Clinton’s claim. Kessler tweeted, “Actually, even with a silencer, it’s pretty loud. An AR-15 rifle would have a noise equivalent to a jack hammer, and Loesch concurred in her tweet, “Suppressors only reduce by a few decibels, still same decibel level as a jackhammer”.

A study released earlier this year by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives found that while there were 1.3 million registered suppressors in the country last year, there were only 44 suppressor-related crimes recommended for prosecution.

The details about the weapons the shooter used are still not clear, but some have called for a ban on automatic weapons—basically machine guns—on top of other gun control measures.

However, federal laws dating back to the 1930s already on the books strictly regulate the sale and purchase of these kinds of firearms.

Sean Davis at The Federalist did an excellent job of explaining how tightly controlled automatic weapon sales are in the United States:

            Only licensed entities are permitted to manufacture, sell, or own [fully automatic weapons]. Private civilian ownership of machine guns is illegal unless the individual has been explicitly permitted by the federal ATF to own them. All fully automatic weapons must be registered with the federal government in a central registry with no exceptions.

            There is also a tax on these items—and they’re not cheap since only weapons produced before 1986 are allowed to be sold.

Of course, with the right tools and skills, it is still possible to create a fully automatic weapon, which some experts say may have been what the Las Vegas shooter did to carry out his murders.

Nevertheless, these weapons are incredibly difficult to obtain.

The events that took place in Las Vegas on Sunday night were an atrocity. But it must be noted that wicked individuals have found ways to conduct mass murder and terrorism through a variety of means both legal and illegal: guns, knives, acid, planes, and trucks.

The list goes on and on.

As numerous studies have shown, gun ownership is not necessarily connected to crime rates, and in fact may make crime go down. A 2016 report from the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action noted that:

            As gun ownership has risen to an all-time high, the nation’s total violent crime rate has fallen to a 44-year low and the murder rate has fallen to an all-time low. Since 1991, when violent crime hit an all-time high, the nation’s violent crime rate and its murder rate have decreased by more than half, as Americans have acquired over 170 million new guns, roughly doubling the number of privately owned guns in the United States.

            Furthermore, concealed carry permit holders are among the most law-abiding of any demographic group in America.

For these reasons and many others, gun control has fizzled as an issue even as its proponents continue to push the narrative.

The fact is, a majority of Americans just don’t see gun control as the answer to crime, violence, and terrorism.

As Gov. Matt Bevin, R-Ky., put it on Twitter, we live in a fallen world and ultimately can’t regulate evil.

Congress Has Failed Again

Congress Has Failed Again

    America is in the economic and political crisis in which it finds itself, because those elected to represent us have failed to protect and defend the original intention of the Constitution of the United States of America.

    We are engaged in a great new civil war raging here in our homeland and around the world. It is a war of ideologies seeking the hearts and minds of those responsible for authorizing their political power to those holding the reins of political power. We the people, bribed and deceived by the politicians seeking political power, are responsible for our government. Swayed by the false propaganda of the liberal media, we have failed to hold those we elect to an immutable standard of truth and justice for all.

The soon to be released book, Set My People Free, written by the author of The Attack on America and Beyond Reason, details where the governments we empower have failed us. Relying on the truths revealed by adhering to the confirmations of science and valid uncorrupted history, the new book discusses, in detail, solutions and alternatives to reclaim the heritage intend by the Framers and Founders. We have had the privilege of reviewing Set My People Free before publication.

Among the bureaucracies and institutions stealing our freedom and robbing us of justice ignored by government is the Social Security system. As the unjustly rich become richer and working Americans become poorer, the Social Security system established by Congress is failing. Most relevant to that issue is the fact that those we elect to represent us have exempted themselves from the retirement security they have imposed on working Americans. This is not an entitlement. Working Americans have earned their right to retire by contributing their wages to it. To have the fruits of their just labors stolen by government is criminal.

CftC

The new reality of old age in America

Mary Jordan, Kevin Sullivan

30 September, 2017

            People are living longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working — now nearly 1 in 5. That proportion has risen steadily over the past decade, and at a far faster rate than any other age group. Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000.

            While some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Fundamental changes in the U.S. retirement system have shifted responsibility for saving from the employer to the worker, exacerbating the nation’s rich-poor divide. Two recent recessions have devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.

Polls show that most older people are more worried about running out of money than dying.

“There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist who specializes in retirement security. “People are coming into retirement with a lot more anxiety and a lot less buying power.”

            As a result, many older workers are hitting the road as work campers — also called “workampers” — those who shed costly lifestyles, purchase RVs and travel the nation picking up seasonal jobs that typically offer hourly wages and few or no benefits.

            Amazon’s “CamperForce” program hires thousands of these silver-haired migrant workers to box online orders during the Christmas rush. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Walmart, whose giant parking lots are famous for welcoming RV travelers, has hired elderly people as store greeters and cashiers. Websites such as the Workamper News list jobs as varied as ushering at NASCAR tracks in Florida, picking sugar beets in Minnesota and working as security guards in the Texas oil fields.

            In Maine, which calls itself “Vacationland,” thousands of seniors are drawn each summer to the state’s rocky coastline and picturesque small towns, both as vacationers and seasonal workers. In Bar Harbor, one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations, well-to-do retirees come ashore from luxury cruise ships to dine on $30 lobsters and $13 glasses of sauvignon blanc — leaving tips for other senior citizens waiting on oceanfront tables, driving Ollie’s Trolley buses or taking tickets for whale-watching tours.

The Devers have noticed this economic divide. They found their campground jobs online and drove here in May, with plans to stay until the season ends in October. On a recent day off, they took a bus tour near Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, where the tour guide pointed out the oceanfront Rockefeller estate and Martha Stewart’s 12-bedroom mansion.

“The ones who go on these ritzy, ritzy cruises to all these islands in Maine, I don’t know how they got all that money. Maybe they were born into it,” said Jeannie, 72. “And then you see this poor little old retired person next door, who can hardly keep going. And he’s got his little trailer.”

On Election Day last November, the Devers expressed their frustration. For more than 50 years, they had supported mainstream candidates in both parties, casting their ballots for John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. This time, they concluded that the Democrat, Hillary Clinton, would be no help to them. And they found the Republican standard-bearer, Donald Trump, too “mouthy.”

So, for the first time in their lives, they cast protest votes, joining legions of disaffected voters whose aversion to Clinton helped propel Trump into the White House. Richard voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Jeannie left her presidential ballot blank.

“We are all talking about this, but not politicians. Helping people build a nest egg is not on their agenda,” Jeannie said. “We are the forgotten people.”

‘This job is a blessing’

The Devers first hit the road in their 33-foot American Star RV when Jeannie turned 65. Since then, they have worked jobs in Wyoming, Pennsylvania and now Maine. In addition to their $10-an-hour paychecks, the couple receives $22,000 a year from Social Security, an amount that has barely budged while health-care and other costs have soared.

“If we didn’t work, our money would run out real quick,” Richard said.

On a recent Friday, the Devers met for lunch back at their RV, Richard’s plaid shirt and suspenders dusty from mowing the drought-dried grass. Jeannie had spent the morning working the front desk in the campground office, where she checks people in and sells bug spray, marshmallows and other camping essentials.

            As usual, she had arrived a half-hour early for her 9 a.m. shift to make sure everything was tidy for the first customer. Full of cheer and wearing white sneakers, she shies from talking about her macular degeneration and arthritic knuckles. “This job is a blessing,” she said.

President Trump is one year younger than Jeannie and, she said, “has more money than we can even imagine.” She muses that he probably “will hand a lot down to his kids” — another generation of rich people who, Richard and Jeannie believe, tend to be born that way.

The Devers know how hard it is to make it on your own.

In 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were running for president, Richard started repairing homes and Jeannie made root beer floats in a drugstore back home in southern Indiana, near the Kentucky border. Later, they ran a business that put vinyl siding on homes and a little start-up called Southwest Stuff that sold Western-themed knickknacks.

They raised two children and lived well enough but never had much extra cash to put away. After a lifetime of working, they have a small mobile home in Indiana, a couple of modest life insurance policies and $5,000 in savings.

The Devers are better off than many Americans. One in five have no savings, and millions retire with nothing in the bank. Nearly 30 percent of households headed by someone 55 or older have neither a pension nor any retirement savings, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

From the camper’s compact refrigerator, Jeannie pulled a tub of meatloaf she had cooked in her crockpot a couple of days earlier.

“Are you good with just a sandwich?” she called to Richard.

“Just a sandwich, thanks,” he said, emerging from the bedroom in a fresh plaid shirt, bought for $2 at Goodwill. His blue-striped suspenders dangled below his waistband.

Without a word, Jeannie leaned over and slipped them over his shoulders — a daily task that keeps getting harder for the man she married 55 years ago.

A Wall Street gold mine

While most Americans are unprepared for retirement, rich older people are doing better than ever. Among people over 65, the wealthiest 20 percent own virtually all of the nation’s $25 trillion in retirement accounts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Employers have gradually shifted from traditional pensions, with guaranteed benefits for life, to 401(k) accounts that run out when the money has been spent. Those accounts work best for the wealthy, who not only have the extra cash to invest but also use 401(k)s to shelter their income from taxes while they are working.

People with little financial know-how often find 401(k)s confusing. Millions of people opt not to participate, or contribute too little, or take money out at the wrong time and are charged huge fees.

            Even people who manage to save for retirement often face a grim calculation: Among people between 55 and 64 who have retirement accounts, the median value of those accounts is just over $120,000, according to the Federal Reserve.

So people are forced to guess how long they might live and budget their money accordingly, knowing that one big health problem, or a year in a nursing home, could wipe it all out.

The system has been a gold mine for Wall Street. Brokerages and insurance companies that manage retirement accounts earned roughly $33 billion in fees last year, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Ted Benna, a retirement consultant who is credited with creating the modern 401(k), called those fees “outrageous.” Many people — especially those who need the money the most — don’t even know they are paying them, he said.

Compared with the old system of company pensions, the new retirement system does not serve the average American well, said Ghilarducci, the labor economist, who teaches at the New School in New York.

“It’s as if we moved from a system where everybody went to the dentist to a system where everybody now pulls their own teeth,” she said.

‘The rich help the rich’

A few miles up the road from the Devers, Joanne Molnar, 64, and her husband, Mark, 62, live in their RV and work at another campground.

For 21 years, Joanne worked as a manager for a day-care company in Fairfield, Conn. She said she paid regularly into a 401(k) account that, at one point, was worth more than $40,000.

By the time she left the company in 2008, however, its value had fallen to $2,000.

Molnar said the company’s owner thought he was doing his 100 employees a favor by managing their retirement accounts. “But he didn’t know what he was doing,” she said. Instead of being angry with him, she’s furious with the 401(k) system.

“It stinks,” she said.

As Joanne’s retirement account was further battered by the Great Recession in 2008, the Molnars sold Mark’s share of his piano-restoration business and their home in Connecticut, which had lost value but kept attracting higher and higher property tax bills.

They bought a 25-foot RV for $13,000 and started looking for work near their three sons, one of whom lives near Bar Harbor, and their six grandchildren. After finishing at the Maine campground this fall, they plan to look for work in Texas or Wisconsin, near their other children.

Like the Devers, the Molnars say they are frustrated that the problems of older Americans do not seem to register in Washington.

            “The little people are drowning, and nobody wants to talk about it,” Joanne said. “Us middle-class, or lower-class, people are just not part of anything politicians decide.”

Last year, the Molnars grew more optimistic when they heard Trump promising in campaign speeches to help the “forgotten people.” Like a majority of older voters, Joanne voted for Trump. She said she thought maybe a businessman, an outsider, would finally address the economic issues that matter to her.

But the Molnars said that with each passing week of the Trump presidency, they are growing less hopeful.

“We’ll see. I’m just getting a little worried now,” Joanne said. “I just think he’s not going to be helping the lower class as much as he thought he would.”

The recent battle to repeal Obamacare was “kind of scary,” she said, noting that Trump supported legislation that would have slashed Medicaid and left more people without government-subsidized insurance. Although the effort failed, Joanne and Mark remain nervous.

“The rich help the rich, and I’m starting to think that not enough will fall down to us,” Mark said, as he methodically bolted together one of 170 new picnic tables.

Mark signed up to begin collecting Social Security this summer. Even with those monthly checks, he figures he’ll have to work at least 10 more years.

“Forget the government. It’s got to be ‘We the People,’ ” he said. “We’re on our own. You have to fend for yourself.”

‘It’s not fun getting old’

At the end of a long day at work, Richard and Jeannie Dever met back at their RV. After mowing the grass in the hot sun, Richard, who is just shy of his 75th birthday, was sweating under his baseball cap. He was tired.

“It’s not fun getting old,” he said.

Asked whether he was more worried about dying or running out of money, Richard thought about it, then said with a shrug, “I guess it’s a toss-up.”

Jeannie took off her sneakers and rested her swollen ankles. Richard recently cut back to 33 hours a week, but she was still working 40 hours, sometimes a few more.

A few days earlier, she had spent four hours cleaning a trailer where the guests had used a fire extinguisher to put out a small stove fire. She got down on the vinyl floor and lied on her stomach to reach the dust under the stove.

In the years ahead, Jeannie said, she hopes to find a job where she can sit down.