is president of the Institute
for Liberty, a Washington
think tank focused on the rights of individuals and small-business owners
It has become clear that President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress have sorely misjudged the ire of the American people.
Discontent is dismissed as racism, ignorance, or "anti-incumbent" sentiment. Washington fails to realize that Americans have grown increasingly angry at the way their money is being spent. It seemed that the president had gotten the message when he was backing the no-more-bailout sentiment of the financial-reform bill. And yet, like so many other instances where the Democrats say one thing and then do the opposite, another bailout is being considered:
A $165 billion gift to labor unions to prop up their struggling pension funds.
The Create Jobs and Save Benefits Act, sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), would essentially establish a new fund to back up the pension liabilities of some multiemployer pension funds. The funds - in trouble as businesses go bankrupt or close their doors and therefore can't fulfill their obligations to retirees - would be part of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which has four other similar funds that use only private money.
This new fund, as described in the Casey bill, would be distinct in that the debts would be "obligations of the United States," a fact that has led critics to rightly suggest that this bill, the subject of a recent contentious Senate hearing, would be a taxpayer-funded bailout for failing pension funds.
This is terrible public policy. At its best, the bill enshrines years of bad pension management and couples it with an entitlement policy founded on idiotic assumptions. At its worst, it is an outrageous, bald-faced payback for years of Big Labor's fealty to the Democratic Party - $400 million to Obama and his party nationwide in 2008 alone. And unions contribute despite policies that ultimately operate against the best interests of their dues-paying members, by eviscerating America's manufacturing sector and driving jobs overseas.
Given the close working relationship between Democrats and labor, taxpayers have reason to worry that at least some of that bailout money would be spent to ensure that union-friendly politicians remain in office.
Already this year, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union have pledged to spend millions to protect Democratic incumbents. Never mind the polls showing that Americans are increasingly losing faith in the direction that Democrats are taking on the economy.
At this point, taxpayers should be asking, if unions have millions to spend on campaigns this year, and $400 million to help elect Obama, why not use their own money to help prop up the pension funds? The answer: Because it's a calculated bet. Unions chose to invest the $400 million and more in the hopes of a larger payoff from Democrats running Congress and the White House.
This gamble should infuriate union members, whose promised pension money is used as a bargaining chip to ensure federal largesse to labor leaders and incumbency protection for politicians. And, of course, this game should further anger the overtaxed Americans who are being asked to finance the jackpot.