On Friday, The Daily Signal posted an article about a proposal before Congress asking taxpayers to make loans to private, union-run pension plans. This is a really bad idea. We have seen what has happened to the college loan program since the government took it over. Just in case you think the idea of the government bailing out union pension plans is far-fetched, I posted an article about this idea in October of 2010.
The article reports:
The Butch Lewis Act—a proposal to bail out private-sector pensions through loans as well as direct cash assistance—acknowledges the high probability of default by stipulating that pension plans that have trouble repaying their loans after 30 years of interest-only payments will be eligible for forgiveness or alternative repayment plans.
A loan with a zero-consequence default option for the borrower is not a loan—it’s a bailout.
But it’s not just defaults that taxpayers need to be concerned about. There’s also the cost of providing highly subsidized, low- or no-interest loans for 15 to 30 years, as well as the risk that plans will increase—rather than decrease—their unfunded liabilities over the course of their loans.
These features could lead to loans to insolvent pension plans costing taxpayers more than direct cash bailouts.
But those costs won’t be apparent in the official government score because the Congressional Budget Office is required to score loans under the assumption that insolvent pension plans are essentially riskless borrowers.
In reality, loans to insolvent pension plans could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. The most liberal proposals—which supplement loans with direct cash assistance—could cost more than the entirety of multiemployer pensions’ half-trillion-dollar shortfall.
Does anyone really believe that these loans will be paid back? Union membership is down, and various courts are hearing cases that will make the mandatory payment of union dues by non-union members who work in a union shop illegal. Both of these factors will make the union retirement plans (actually a true Ponzi scheme) unsustainable.
The article concludes:
Coping with roughly $500 billion in private union pensions’ unfunded promises will not be easy. There are ways to minimize losses to workers who have earned pension benefits and protect taxpayers from paying for private pensions’ broken promises.
Policymakers should look to improve the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.’s multiemployer program through premium increases and other reforms; end union pensions’ preferential treatment; enact and enforce sound funding rules; hold pension trustees liable for financial decisions; act sooner rather than later to enact needed reforms, including benefit reductions; and explicitly prohibit federal pension bailouts.
None of these actions provide a costless cure-all, but they offer more fair and rational solutions that don’t treat taxpayers as guarantors of private-sector promises or set the stage for even more mismanagement and reckless behavior.
There is no reason every American should pay for the fact that the unions have not sufficiently funded their retirement plans!