"The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him." Thoreau's words resonate with irony in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Above, a "dragonfly tries to clean itself as it is stuck to marsh grass covered in oil" on the gulf coast of Louisiana. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
"ET TU, Thad McCotter?" we twittered our favorite Congressman (R-MI 11th) this morning, seeking to understand the thinking behind his embrace of HR 3936, a bill sponsored by Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) that is getting a lot of bad press:
Americans for Limited Government (ALG) has sent a letter to 9 House Republicans urging that they withdraw their support from legislation providing a taxpayer bailout of labor-union-run pension funds …
“We are asking that each Representative remove his or her cosponsorship of this blatant handout to unions, which are now asking the American people to bail them out of their own mismanagement of pensions,” Wilson said, adding that “Compensating poor investment strategies, like those pursued by the multi-employer pension plans, only incentives further underfunding of these plans” …Citing the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by labor bosses to support Obama, the Democratic majority, and the 9 House Republicans (see attachments below), Wilson decried unions’ “audacity to try to cash in on their political investment by foisting these unfunded liabilities accumulated under their watch onto the backs of taxpayers, who are struggling to fund their own retirements.”
Rep McCotter sent along this video of himself holding forth in the House of Representatives in defense of HR 3936:
What it does is good government. It allows employers the space they need to make sure they meet the pension obligations that they have for their workers. It is not a government bailout. Taxpayer funds are not involved, unless, of course, these institutions, these unions and their pension plans fail.
It is a wonderful idea by my colleague Pat Tiberi (Another of the 9 Repubs to whom the ALG letter was sent), it is endorsed by many, many business groups, and I would hope that over the course of the coming hours the truth will out. Again, you can't always believe what you see on TV.
It was the "unless, of course" part that gave us pause. The House bill is apparently similar to one introduced last week by Senator Casey, described by the National Right to Work Committee as a "taxpayer-funded union pension bailout":
Legislation introduced last week could shift costs of union pension plans to taxpayers in an attempt to stave off organized labor’s pension funding crisis. Senator Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat, introduced the so-called Create Jobs & Save Benefits Act of 2010 to address the funding problems faced by union-administered multi-employer pension plans by shifting the burden to the taxpayers. Casey said his bill would cost the taxpayers $8 to $10 billion.
According to a FoxBusiness report and bloggers who are following the story, the tab could run much higher:
As FOX Business Network’s Gerri Willis reported Monday, these pensions are in bad shape; as of 2006, well before the market dropped and recession began, only 6% of these funds were doing well.
Although right now taxpayers could possibly be on the hook for $165 billion, the liability could essentially be unlimited because these pensions have to be paid out until the workers die. It’s hard to say at the moment what the chances are that the bill will pass. A hearing is scheduled Thursday, which will give the public a sense of where political leaders sit on the topic, said Willis.
WHILE AMERICANS’ 401(K) PLANS SHRINK, Congress wants to bail out unions’ overgenerous and underfunded pension plans.
Our man Dan Riehl had the scoop on deep background way back in early March. His "Big Labor, Obama And Dems Have Big Plan$ For You" is a must-read to get up to speed. It includes interviews with Brett McMahon of the Associated Building Contractors and Katie Packer of the Workforce Fairness Institute. A lot to digest. If you're reading this, Dan, please feel free to join the conversation.
Related: USA Today's "Private pay shrinks to historic lows as gov't payouts rise" and John Fund's "Tea Parties vs. Unions in November."
Update: Michelle Malkin "Buzzworthy" link.