In October, actress Jane Fonda made headlines when she said the coronavirus pandemic was “God’s gift to the left.” That statement has proved true on many levels. Many of us believe that, had the pandemic never materialized, former President Donald Trump would have easily won re-election.
Anyway, the economic devastation caused by the lockdowns has prompted the government to pass several enormous COVID-19 relief bills into which the Democrats have been able to tuck away a myriad of wish-list items, the most recent $1.9 trillion aid package being perhaps the most egregious.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that the bill passed by the Senate over the weekend includes an $86 billion bailout for failing union pension plans. The article’s subtitle informs readers that “Democrats pushed through a big aid measure for multiemployer pensions whose problems predate the pandemic.”
The report by Mary Williams Walsh and Alan Rappeport tells us the $86 billion “has nothing to do with the pandemic” and represents “a taxpayer bailout for about 185 union pension plans that are so close to collapse that without the rescue, more than a million retired truck drivers, retail clerks, builders and others could be forced to forgo retirement income.”
Specifically, they wrote, “the bailout targets multiemployer pension plans, which bring groups of companies together with a union to provide guaranteed benefits. All told, about 1,400 of the plans cover about 10.7 million active and retired workers, often in fields like construction or entertainment where the workers move from job to job.
“As the work force ages, an alarming number of the plans are running out of money. The trend predated the pandemic and is a result of fading unions, serial bankruptcies and the misplaced hope that investment income would foot most of the bill so that employers and workers wouldn’t have to.”
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who led the pension bailout effort, told The Times, “It goes back to the fact that these workers didn’t do anything wrong. They have earned these pensions.”
Two things, senator.
First, the countless owners of small businesses who were forced to shut their doors because of the lockdowns didn’t do anything wrong, either.
Second, the precarious condition of these union pension plans is the result of years of poor management. The state of these pensions was dire long before the pandemic reached our shores.
Republicans have called this provision “a union handout masquerading as pandemic relief,” The Times reported. They do have a point.
Tennessee Sen. Bill Hagerty, a Republican, said last week, “Just to show you how bad this bill is, there’s more money in this to bail out union pension funds than all the money combined for vaccine distribution and testing.”
— Senator Bill Hagerty (@SenatorHagerty) March 4, 2021
As Walsh and Alan Rappeport reported, “Using taxpayer dollars to bail out pension plans is almost unheard of. … The federal government does provide a backstop for certain failing pension plans through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which acts like an insurer and makes companies pay premiums, but does not get taxpayer dollars. Currently, the pension agency has separate insurance programs for single-employer and multiemployer pensions. The single-employer program is in good shape, but the multiemployer program is fragile.”
Several conservatives railed against the bailout on Twitter.
“The provision does not require the plans to pay back the bailout, freeze accruals or end the practices that led to their current distress”
this ON ITS OWN is a massive scandal. Biden’s Bailout Bill is the biggest single act of corruption in U.S. historyhttps://t.co/CMTttpO3Uf
— steve hilton (@SteveHiltonx) March 9, 2021
$86 billion for union pension bailouts, $1400 for you. Seems fair smh!#stimulus
— Kelly Vieth (@kdvieth23) March 8, 2021
Washington spending $86 billion to bail out *private* pensions is a strong indicator of how Congress will respond to the SocSec & Medicare trust funds hitting zero – no reforms, just permanent bailouts. That’s how you get $100 trillion in 30-year deficits.https://t.co/BSehLTw0QW
— Brian Riedl 🧀 (@Brian_Riedl) March 9, 2021
Frankly, there are plenty of other contemptible provisions in the relief package, including $350 billion to bail out state, local and tribal governments — which, not coincidentally, mostly benefits the cities and states represented by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Republicans argue that because of years of fiscal mismanagement in blue states and cities, combined with their longer and more drastic lockdowns during the pandemic, this provision will disproportionately benefit Democratic areas — especially after Pelosi and her party changed the allocation formula to focus on states’ unemployment rate rather than population.
“They want to send wheelbarrows of cash to state and local bureaucrats to bail out mismanagement from before the pandemic,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues last week, according to USA Today. “They’re changing the previous bipartisan funding formula in ways that will especially bias the money toward big blue states.”
Kentucky Rep. James Comer, a Republican, echoed McConnell’s sentiments, saying, “The bill contains a $350 billion bailout for locked-down, poorly managed states with no strings attached. The sneaky formula used by Democrats ensures that most of the money goes to liberals in California and New York rather than to rural communities.”
Schumer disagreed, claiming the provision was “an American wish list” instead of a “liberal wish list.”
“Funding to keep teachers, firefighters, transit workers, first responders in red states and blue on the job. So many of the people affected by this bill are not liberals or Democrats. They may be Republicans, they may be independents, they may be conservatives,” he said, according to USA Today. “But they’re Americans who want some help to get out of this morass.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that funding from the Democrats’ coronavirus bill “will erase the majority of San Francisco’s projected $650 million budget deficit over the next two years, saving City Hall from having to make painful service cuts and layoffs — for now.”
Conservatives will be so relieved to hear that.
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