Pension wrenchin’

In a move that should surprise no one, a piece of legislation billed as “pension reform” appears to be poised to come out of a Congressional conference committee in a form that would, wait for it… weaken the nation’s private pensions.
The solution to a national problem of underfunded private pensions, which arise because of various factors ranging from financially failing companies and underperforming assets, to simple greed, to outright thievery, according to Congress, is to weaken companies’ funding requirements, and to permit even rosier projections than currently exist and have led to the current crisis. (Further, there appear to be escape clauses for entire industries, such as airlines, allowing them to take almost three times as long as other industries to close up their pension shortfalls, and for whatever reason… actually, because Mike DeWine is facing a tough battle for reelection in Ohio… as a result, Smithfield Farm Hams gets a special exemption.)
Here’s the freest of free shots for Democrats (aside from censuring the President for his admittedly illegal spying on Americans, which incumbent Democrats oppose simply because their constituents by and large favor it, but the people who invite them to cool cocktail parties do not): seemingly unbelievably, Bush Administration Labor Secretary Elaine Chao (a/k/a Mrs. Senator Mitch McConnell) actually did the right thing, and proposed legislation that would actually toughen up the nation’s pension laws and move closer to providing actual security for workers.
The cognitive dissonance of a Bush Administration cabinet secretary proposing something responsible proved too much for the Republican Congress: almost immediately, various industry lobbyists got on board and made sure that their industries got special privileges in a standard issue legislative feeding frenzy, and on net… that’s right… the nation’s pension system will end up weaker as a result of this bill.
While the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation will be slightly better funded through an increased premium, this, on net, will come nowhere near covering the increased exposure of what will soon be permissible shortfalls.
Might the President use his first veto for this measure, to correct Congress’s failure to adopt what his Administration proposed doing? Let’s just say that unless the Emir of Dubai wants it, I wouldn’t count on it.
Private pensions now join social security as something that the Bush Administration and its Congressional allies just don’t think Americans have any right to count on. Compassionate conservatism’s new pillar (joining the health care plan of “don’t get sick” and the social policy of “don’t get pregnant”) is… “don’t get old.” Simple, easy enough to understand… and yet, Democrats seemingly have no answer to it… no wonder we keep losing elections.