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Obama Expands Workers' Retirement Options


U.S. President Barack Obama has announced new initiatives designed to make it easier for Americans to save for retirement. The announcement comes as the nation celebrates the Labor Day holiday in honor of American workers.

They may have worked all their lives, but for one reason or another, many Americans have ended up in old age struggling to make ends meet.

In his weekly Internet address, President Obama said the economic recession has added to the problem.

"Over the past two years, the American people have lost about $2 trillion in retirement savings. This carries a painful toll," he said.

The president said tens of millions of families have been unable to put away enough money for a secure retirement. But he said, the government is planning to help.

"We have to revive this economy and rebuild it stronger than before. And making sure that folks have the opportunity and incentive to save - for a home or college, for retirement or a rainy day - is essential to that effort," he said. "If you work hard and meet your responsibilities, this country is going to honor our collective responsibility to you: to ensure you can save and secure your retirement."

President Obama said the government will make it easier for workers at small businesses to automatically enroll in retirement savings plans.

He said the government will also make it easier for people to save their federal tax refunds, with an option for depositing the money into their retirement accounts. Those without retirement plans can check a box on their tax returns to get their refunds as a savings bond.

Another new option will allow workers leaving a job to put payments for unused vacation and sick days into their retirement plan.

But savings problems are just one of the worries gripping the country. This week's Republican address focused on concerns over President Obama's plans for health care reform.

Congressman John Kline, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, repeated the Republicans' view that the Democrat-proposed legislation amounts to a government takeover.

"It's time to press the reset button," he said. "Health care reform doesn't have to be a partisan battle. It doesn't have to take away coverage from Americans who like what they have. It doesn't have to put federal bureaucrats in charge of what procedure is covered and what medication is not."

Some Americans seem to agree. The issue ignited a firestorm recently in town hall meetings sponsored by congressional Democrats.

"People want less government. That is what they don't get. We want 'leave us alone,'" said a town hall participant in Iowa.

Kline said the proposal could also cost the U.S. millions of jobs as a result of health-related taxes he said most businesses cannot afford to pay.

President Obama has said the public health insurance plan would operate just like private plans and that any bill he signs will have to reduce costs and provide affordable choices to the uninsured.

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