All of a sudden the US Senate has reached its limit on what can be spent? We are in the midst of an estimated $3.8 trillion budget shortfall for 2020. To put that in perspective, the previous budget deficit record was $1.4 trillion set in 2009. Do Senators fear that the Butch Lewis Act (multiemployer legislation), which continues to be ignored, would be analogous to Mr. Creosote’s thin mint (Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”)?
The Senate refuses to address the Butch Lewis Act because it doesn’t produce shared sacrifice. This legislation was estimated to cost $31.9 billion when it was last scored in July 2019. That is a 10-year score or just under $3.2 billion / year. An annual cost of $3.2 billion on a budget deficit of $3.8 trillion seems as if it wouldn’t carry the same weight as Mr. Creosote’s aforementioned thin mint!
But, here we sit. Senator Rob Portman (R, OH) who sat on the Joint Select Committee that failed to come up with proposed legislation to improve the financial future for roughly 130 failing multiemployer systems has recently been on the Senate floor imploring his fellow Senators to pass pension reform legislation.
Senator Portman was recently asked if it was appropriate to blame Senate Majority Leader McConnell for blocking the Senate’s ability to get pension reform done, including not taking up the Butch Lewis Act or the Heroes Act (which included pension reform). His response: “In order to solve this, both parties must work together to achieve consensus in both the House and Senate. The proposal passed by House Democrats only uses taxpayer money to bail out these plans – and there is no bipartisan support for it in the Senate. Republicans have reached out to Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to try and discuss a shared responsibility approach that can gain consensus in both chambers. We’re ready to find an acceptable compromise that works for both parties.”
So, I repeat, the Republican-led Senate was fine passing a series of stimulus packages that resulted in a massive deficit, but legislation to support nearly 1.4 million American workers, who I remind you are also taxpayers, is a no go? This rounding-error of a proposal also provides great economic stimulus to the local communities in which the plan participants live. Given the economic hit that many communities/states have endured this year, one would think that our leadership would be looking for any way possible to produce economic activity that might just create or maintain jobs.
Let’s stop playing games with the financial future for these Americans who have done nothing wrong. They showed up to work with the promise of a pension upon retirement, while often deferring salary increases to help support those pension promises. Pension reform has been kicked down the road for too many years. There is nothing left of the proverbial can at this time!