Waiting for Godot?

Come on already! The multiemployer retirement crisis continues to worsen daily. When will we finally see action? Time for more review has long passed. Further delays are unacceptable.

There certainly has been a lot of talk related to this evolving crisis for years and years. It finally looked as if a resolution would be achieved when the Butch Lewis Act (BLA) was passed by the House of Representatives in July 2019 with some bipartisan support. However, that Bill has gone nowhere within the Senate. Lately, it appeared that stimulus discussions were about to provide a glimmer of hope, but regrettably nothing was accomplished when negotiations were stopped until after the election.

Now, we get a Memorandum (10/22/20) from President Trump related to the Delphi salaries and non-unionized employees pension plan that he is authorizing “the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Trade and Manufacturing Policy to review the Delphi matter described in subsection 1(a) of this memorandum and inform the President within 90 days of the date of this memorandum of any appropriate action that may be taken”. This memorandum reads well, as it states that “it is the policy of the United States to support America’s workers, regardless of union affiliation, to protect the pensions of hardworking Americans”. But inaction, such as we’ve seen for years, does nothing to support hard working Americans!

Furthermore, it reads that “reforms are needed to maintain the solvency of these critical programs (PBGC’s single and multiemployer insurance programs) into the future, so that those Americans with pensions under the PBGC’s trusteeship have financial certainty and security. NO! Why wait until these plans collapse? There is a better way… the BLA. The BLA specifically protects and preserves these plans BEFORE they end up with the PBGC. No American worker wants to see their pension fail, especially if it means that they will be subject to a maximum benefit threshold that is dramatically lower than their promised benefit.

The proposed stimulus bill (roughly $2 TRILLION) did NOT include any money for the protection of multiemployer pension systems. Why not? Most pensions were hurt by the Covid-19 as pension assets had negative returns during this covid-19 period thereby affecting their funded status solvency. It seems like a no-brainer that both parties would want to secure the pensions for 1.4 million Americans who were promised a benefit that now may be taken away from them through draconian cuts. You would think that both parties would want to do everything possible to entice this pension cohort into voting for the party that has done the most to protect their retirements. Yet, that hasn’t happened.

If you haven’t reviewed the stimulus proposal, and I can’t blame you if you haven’t, you will be amazed with what was included that carried more urgency than the “protection of the pensions of hardworking Americans”. The original cost of the BLA legislation was roughly $34 billion over 10-years. That would represent only 1.5% of the total stimulus, but it still didn’t get included. Yet, there was money for NPR, museums and libraries, $20 billion for the USPS, salary increases for House of Representative members (!!!), $600 million for the endowments of the Arts and Humanities, the Agency of International Development and another $300 million for International Disaster Assistance, and $100 million to NASA. There are 100s, if not 1,000s, of allocations to various causes and Congressional pet projects, but NOTHING for the “Hard Working American” whose pension is about to get trashed!

The retirement crisis “can” has been kicked down the street for way to long. There is little left of that can and certainly no more time to be wasted. Let’s allocate our precious financial resources where they are most needed and not to various pet projects. The financial future for millions of American workers are in the balance.

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