(OPE-L) Re: pension funds

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Thu Nov 11 2004 - 12:58:50 EST

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <andromeda246@hetnet.nl>
Date:    Thu, November 11, 2004 11:09 am

 Jerry asked:

If individual workers invested in the stock market and made gains
would that represent a claim on a (very small) portion of the
surplus value?  If so, then when workers' pensions are invested
on the stock market, why can't the gain be thought of as a
claim on s?

I suppose they could be, but my argument was that:

(1) in the former case, people are investing themselves, and directly
appropriating distributed profits from their equity, while in the latter
case, a financial institution actually does the investing, over which the
insured has little control, and the payout to the insured in that case is
not a direct disbursement of profit from that institution, but a cost to
that institution (a reduction of its available working capital). This cost
 may moreover be unrelated to the institution's current profitability,
insofar as the placement offers a guaranteed return of a certain size, in
installments or as lump sum.

(2) surplus-value as economic category in Marxian economics is a component
 of the new income generated from current production, and it refers
principally to the valuation of net output. Its main components are
distributed and undistributed profit, net interest, net rents, net taxes
on  producers, net royalties, net increase in inventories before IVA, and
the  difference between tax-assessed depreciation and economic
depreciation. In  this context, Marx distinguishes between the production
of surplus-value,  and the distribution of revenues. Receipts of insurance
payouts are for the  most part distributions of revenue, not directly
related to production. The  way the NIPAs account for profit is of course
at variance with the Marxian  view of things, principally because of what
incomes the NIPAs attribute to  production in the valuation of gross and
net output. I aim to complete a  short story about profit accounting in
the future, to show what is going on  there.

However, if, as I have described in a number of posts, the pattern of the
reproduction of capital changes, and an increasing portion of capital is
not  production capital, but money capital (financial assets and
instruments) and  commodity capital (traded products and traded existing
physical assets,  including real estate), then net new income is generated
outside the sphere  of production, in the sphere of circulation. The
Keynesian income-product  identities obviously cannot easily cope with
this phenomenon. The value of  production is supposed to be equal to the
incomes generated, but if net new  incomes are generated outside
production, how then should we value  production?

A conceptual difficulty is also created for Marxian economics, which
involves the distinction between the production of surplus-value and the
realization of surplus-value. Namely, profits are generated in
circulation,  without any clear link to any production. The most
significant case of that  is capital gains appropriated on property and
financial assets, which are  mainly excluded from GDP, insofar they are
unrelated to production, and they  may not be included in national income
either, unless they have actually  been realized through sale of the
assets and appropriated as disposable  income. They belong to a separate
circuit of capital. If this income is  profit income, why is it not
surplus-value? This problem refers to two  different views of
surplus-value: (1) as a component of net output, (2) as a  component of
net income receipts. In which case, we have to ask:
surplus-value in relation to what exactly? And the answer obviously can be
 either surplus in relation to the cost component of the net product, or a
 surplus as the yield on capital invested.

The deferred income represented by employer contributions to insurance
schemes is very large in the USA, as I indicated in previous posts. Here
are  the figures again, for 2002:


Private sector domestic gross wage & salary income (non-farm) $4,096
billion Government non-military employees gross wage & salary income
$800.8 billion Government military personnel gross wage & salary income
$61.8 billion Farm workers gross wage & salary income $17.7
Gross wage and salary receipts from abroad $2.9 billion
Total salary income $4979.2 billion


private health insurance plans $388.8 billion
private workers compensation insurance schemes
$47.5 billion
private retirement benefit plans $162.6 billion
private group life insurance schemes $12.3 billion
private unemployment insurance schemes $1.7 billion
subtotal, private plans $612.9
government retirement benefit plans $367.8 billion
government health insurance plans $70.5 billion
government workers compensation schemes $60.5
government unemployment insurance schemes $29
Subtotal private plans $527.8

Total all plans $1140.7 billion
Total all compensation of employees, including insurance levies $6119.9

So then out of the total employee compensation package in the US economy,
18.6%, or nearly a fifth, consists of insurance contributions (8.6% are
private insurance contributions, 10% government insurance contributions).

As far as the employer is concerned, it is part of the variable capital
outlay, part of his labour costs. It is also part of the value of
labor-power. But from the point of view of society as a whole, it is not
variable capital, because the income is deferred and the worker does not
receive it (not the major part, anyway); it must I think be considered a
"social capital" (an economic category of reserves). It enters into the
value of current net output, because it is paid from gross income, but it
is  not capital which anybody actually receives as personal disposable
income.  Marx did not develop his national income analysis beyond basic
categories,  but obviously the category of reserves is applicable to
almost any form of  economic formation, whatever specific form it takes.
You might ask, if net  tax is surplus-value, why is the insurance
component of compensation of  employees not surplus-value? Basically,
because it is a cost to enterprises,  from which the enterprises for the
most part gain no direct financial  benefit.


PS - in Europe, statistical authorities recommended that income from stock
 options by corporate officers should be included in "compensation of
employees", which makes this aggregate seem larger; of course it should
really be included in gross profits.

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