Economy & Budget

Emails show Obama administration involvement in killing non-union auto pensions

Emails show Obama administration involvement in killing non-union auto pensions

Matthew Boyle of the Daily Caller reports that internal emails show Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was “the driving force” behind terminating the pensions of 20,000 non-union retirees from the Delphi auto parts manufacturing company, as part of the government’s bailout plan for General Motors.  Union workers, on the other hand, “saw their pensions topped off and made whole.”

This decision was supposed to be made by the independent Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which is meant to be free of political influence, so it can represent the interests of private-sector pensioners.

Instead, the Daily Caller unearthed a string of emails that show extensive involvement by the Treasury Department and the White House.  In one email, PBGC staffer Joseph House told his associates that he had just spoken with Treasury official Matt Feldman, who said he had “made progress discussing our proposal with a number of key folks in Treasury and at [the] White House, but he has not yet wrapped up his coordination.  He indicated that there is an 8 AM call tomorrow that he’ll use to close the communication-loop, and he’s confident he’ll have a fully-vetted Treasury view after that call.”

This is problematic not only because of appearances, but because Treasury officials have testified under oath that the PBGC terminated those pensions, not the Administration.  It’s tough to read the correspondence between PBGC and Treasury without concluding that Administration officials were running the show.

Especially troubling is a series of emails that show PBGC staffers were actually disinvited from a key early meeting of the Administration’s auto bailout team.  The meeting was clearly intended to include a discussion of the pension situation, but Joseph House told other staffers that the Treasury department had “uninvited” them.  This is more than merely controversial, because as Boyle notes, “without a PBGC representative in the room, Treasury officials were legally prohibited from making decision about pensions – or even from moving toward them.”

Despite this effort to save money at the expense of non-union employees, the GM bailout remains a titanic loss to the taxpayers, currently standing at roughly $35 billion with the recent dip in stock prices.

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