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|Union Officers’ Pensions Okay While Employees’ Pensions Perish|
|Commentary/Politics - Editorials|
|Written by Kathleen McCarthy|
|Thursday, 10 June 2010 05:21|
Anyone with a a hint of common sense knows you can't spend (borrow and consume) your way out of debt into financial recovery, let alone prosperity. Secondly, the most recent jobs report indicated that of the 431,000 new jobs created via the stimulus bailout, 390,000 were government jobs, mostly for the Census Bureau, leaving a paltry 41,000 new jobs created in the private sector, which is the only sector that pays its own way. Furthermore, most of the 390,000 employed in the Census Bureau will be laid off this summer, because those jobs are coming to an end. This is hardly recovery.
When the government creates jobs in the public sector, the wages of those folks are paid by taxpayers because the public sector does not create its own revenue. Therefore, the government coercively takes part of the revenues created by the private sector (the wages you and I earn) by means of taxation (IRS).
The stimulus money used to fund the newly created 390,000 census-bureau jobs came from each and every taxpayer. It is a most inequitable arrangement, especially considering the inflated wages and benefits paid to government employees compared to their counterparts in the private sector. This does not include the excessive waste that prevails in the public sector because at the end of the day, the money being spent does not belong to those spending it. There is zero incentive to manage expenses as they relate to revenues because there are zero consequences for overspending. No amount of regulation has overcome this incompetency because the fox is watching the hen house.
Now comes another monumental insult to taxpayers in the form of both a $165-billion bailout request from the largest public-sector unions, coupled with intrusive legislation designed to level the playing field by mingling these mismanaged pensions with those of workers who contribute to well-funded, responsibly managed pensions as a means of an additional bailout for financial losers like Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
According to the Hudson Institute, which did a study of the 20 largest public-sector-union pensions including SEIU's, over half are either endangered or critical. Hudson examined the 2005 through 2007 5500 filings required annually by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that compare assets and liabilities to make sure pensions are in compliance with the necessary reserves to meet their obligations to members. The graver issue here is that the study does not include 2008 through May 2010, so none of the filings include any downturn in pension portfolios after the financial meltdown. You can bet the situation is far worse than the study shows.
Is it any wonder that SEIU's great poseur Andy Stern is at the helm in aggressively lobbying President Barack Obama and Congress to approve a $165-billion bailout for not only its own union, but also for the Teamsters union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Laborers' International Union of North America, International Association of Machinists, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, and the national plumbers association, to name a few. This is unconscionable.
SEIU would like to blame their pensions' gross underfunding on the poor economy, except that the SEIU's union officers' pensions are doing splendidly by all standards. In fact, Stern and his fellow cronies are funded at 103 percent! The rank-and-file membership, however, is facing deficits, with less than 80 percent of required assets to pay its obligations to workers (considered an "endangered pension," as dictated by the Pension Protection Act of 2006) and less than 62 percent of necessary assets (classifying each of these with "critical pension" status).
The truth is that blatant mismanagement of rank-and-file-membership pensions is the only reason for such dismal and hypocritical stewardship. Union leadership has known for at least 10 years that underfunded pensions are a monumental problem. Yet instead of forthrightly dealing with the problem, they have deceived the membership, conspiring with elected officials to draft legislation - S.560 and H.R. 1409: Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) of 2009 - that would allow unions to remedy the problem on the backs of nonunion employers and workers through coercive contributions via mandatory memberships without secret ballot/voting, and through government intervention through mandatory arbitration to execute federally written contracts if companies and unions cannot agree within 120 days of initial negotiations. This second provision could force nonunion companies out of sound, well-funded pensions and into larger but underfunded pensions against their will.
Don't not let this legislation's name fool you - it is shocking legislation that every citizen, whether an employer or employee, should fight adamantly against because it is anything but free choice. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is a co-sponsor of this legislative nightmare, so voters can make their objections known to him directly by calling his office in D.C. at (202)224-3254 or locally at (563)322-1338. He can also be reached by contact form at Harkin.Senate.gov/contact.cfm.
At a minimum, you need to read the legislation for yourself at OpenCongress.org, Vote-Smart.org, or Thomas.gov. You can't imagine the amount of legislation currently being considered whose names no longer reflect the provisions of the bills but have dire consequences for us all. We need to take it upon ourselves to read these potential "laws of the land." How can we defeat them if necessary when we don't even know what's in them? Congress has no ethical or moral problem sneaking provisions into bills that have nothing to do with the originating legislation. The problem is that these provisions are binding if the bill passes, regardless of the deception. At a minimum, it should be required that bills be written in language easily understood by adult citizens, be restricted to the originating legislation, and perhaps even have a limit on page count. These are just a few common-sense policies that could help to rein in the corruption that permeates D.C.
Senator Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) recently introduced a bill related to EFCA with an equally deceptive name - S.3157, the Create Jobs & Save Benefits Act of 2010 - as a failsafe to the EFCA legislation failing, or to work in tandem with it if it passes. It allows for the transfer the unions' pension obligations to the Pensions Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which will provide a guaranteed retirement income to workers in a much lower amount than originally promised by the unions.
The mere fact that so many employee-union pensions are "endangered" or "critical," while the union officers' pensions are safe and sound, should remove any doubt whatsoever that union leadership is as corrupt as Wall Street, perhaps worse because they claim to be the very heart of Main Street. What I want to know is: Where are the criminal and civil charges against these thieves? Not only are such charges glaringly absent, but most union officers still retain their positions!
What are Stern's chances of getting the $165 billion? Well, not only is he the most frequent visitor to the White House since Obama's occupation, but he was appointed to Obama's National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility & Reform. So what do you think? More importantly, what are you going to do about it?
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