The federal government is known for playing fast and loose with taxpayer dollars, but with a wave of a pen and a little accounting magic, the spending can seem to disappear.
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., calls this dishonest accounting and he says that is exactly what is happening with a bill designed to bail out the United Mine Workers of America’s (UMWA) underfunded pension plan. While a new report says the bill saves money, Enzi says that as soon as you start looking at the details, you realize that the bill will not reduce the deficit.
“Whenever something seems too good to be true it usually helps to take a second look to see if you are getting an honest deal,” Enzi said. “For this first nine years the Miners Protection Act would add over $2.6 billion to the federal deficit. It is only in the last year that the bill would renew a customs user fee in order to hide the true cost of the legislation. Customs user fees are well known as one of the easiest ways to provide an offset for otherwise irresponsible and costly legislation. This is a bogus fix that only works on paper, not in the real world.”
Enzi said the true cost of the bill doesn’t end there. The new legislation would be the first of its kind by obliging the government to bailout a private pension plan, which Enzi said would set a dangerous precedent.
“There are thousands of pension plans that may run out of money,” Enzi said. “How can we bail out one pension plan that asks the government for help but not the others? That is trillions of dollars that will cause our children and grandchildren more problems down the road.”
Enzi also said the often repeated claim that this legislation fulfills a promise to UMWA members made by the federal government is also not true.
“The fact is that the UMWA pension plan is a private agreement made between the members and the UMWA and is not guaranteed by the federal government,” Enzi said.
A longtime supporter of coal miners, Enzi said that instead of relying on dangerous budget gimmicks that only help a certain group of union mine workers, Congress should be looking to make responsible regulatory and energy policy changes that help all mine workers across the country.