Thousands of pension plans currently sit underfunded and many people are already looking to Congress to shore up the funds. U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is worried that government support for any one pension fund could set a dangerous precedent that could cost lots of taxpayer dollars.
Enzi spoke specifically about concerns over legislation designed to shore up the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) pension plan, one of over 1,000 union pension plans that are underfunded. A strong advocate for miners, Enzi said he had a difficult time seeing how one could provide government support to the UMWA plan but not be obligated to provide support for the other underfunded pension plans.
“I’ve frequently heard my colleagues try to differentiate this case by speaking of a promise of a pension that was made to retirees in this particular union,” Enzi said. “But that agreement was between the members and the union, it was not an agreement with the federal government.”
Enzi also expressed concern about the government diverting funds to a private pension with the country in $19 trillion in debt and without extra money to spend.
“Despite proponents arguing that this legislation is paid for by coal companies’ contributions to the Abandoned Mine Land trust, in reality, it would be paid for by the taxpayers from the General Fund of the Treasury,” Enzi said.
Enzi also criticized claims that shoring up the pension would help “all” coal miners, when in reality the policy does absolutely nothing for miners who are not members of the UMWA.
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 11,000 workers in the coal industry have lost their jobs in the last year, largely due to this administration’s policies,” Enzi said. “Yet my colleagues have proposed a bill that would help only a portion of those people. Instead of helping put those folks back to work, proponents of this bill are saying: if you’re a member of the United Mine Workers of America, we want to help with your healthcare and pensions. But if you’re not, or if you want your job back, then too bad.”
While there are facets of America’s retirement system that can be fixed to help retirees, Enzi said he remains concerned about the use of federal tax dollars to shore-up a specific pension plan.