The 2013 Pension 40: Tom Harkin

Tom Harkin
U.S. Senator

In July 2012, Senator Tom Harkin unveiled the outline for a new private pension system, dubbed Universal, Secure and Adaptable Retirement Funds. The goal of these funds is to rebuild the U.S. pension system by adapting the best features of traditional defined benefit plans — pooled vehicles, wide availability and professional management — to 21st-century economic realities like the need for portability. “The truth is that the system just isn’t working for millions of Americans,” Harkin says. “We need to do the right thing and fix it.” The Democrat, who turns 74 this month and won’t seek reelection in 2014, is now shaping his proposal into a bill that he expects to release this year. As a congressman first elected in 1974 and a five-term U.S. senator, the Iowa coal miner’s son and former U.S. Navy jet pilot has long supported issues such as retirement security and health care reform. Author of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, arguably his most important achievement, Harkin became chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) in 2009. He contributed to the pension legislation in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012 and worked on the Pension Relief Act of 2010 and the pension investment provisions of 2010’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

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