Hemingway: Middle-class task force is Big Labor’s Trojan horse 

Part one in a two-part series.

In February, the Obama administration released the “Annual Report of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class.” But under the guise of the report’s benign title, the White House’s Middle Class Task Force is nothing but a shibboleth for instituting a number of expensive pro-union regulatory reforms — one of which could be using your retirement savings to bail out Social Security.

The section of the report devoted to “Protecting Workers and Creating Middle-Class Jobs” reads like organized labor’s policy wish list. It pushes expensive “high road” federal contracting, plans for project labor agreements, enforcing labor standards, a “National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force,” and, most perniciously, “retirement security.”

Social Security is bankrupt, and the average union pension plan only covers 62 percent of its liabilities, well below the 65 percent threshold at which the government considers the plan “endangered.” Given these facts, the Economic Policy Institute  has teamed up with two of most powerful unions in the country — the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union — to push something called “Retirement USA.” (see Retirement-usa.org)

Retirement USA looks like a scheme to prop up trillions of dollars worth of failing pension plans by seizing your personal savings. It would create a universal retirement plan for all Americans that centralizes all existing retirement plans — including your personal 401(k) savings and private pension plans — into the same retirement system.

It just so happens that the former president of EPI is the executive director of the task force: Jared Bernstein. In fact, EPI’s research is cited throughout the report. To say that EPI’s economic and policy perspective is outside the mainstream would be an understatement.

None of the suggestions in the report for retirement security are as radical as Retirement USA, but the question remains: Can you trust Bernstein to look out for your retirement savings if his organization thinks confiscating your 401(k) is a sound policy idea?

Enacting the report’s recommendations would be a major payoff to a special interest that spent $400 million electing Democrats in 2008. And the cost of that payoff would be borne on the backs of the middle-class taxpayers they claim to be protecting.

The report contains two pages supporting card check, legislation that would eliminate secret ballots in union elections. Without a secret ballot, unions would be able to identify workers opposed to unionizing. Organized labor has a long and checkered history of bullying workers who oppose them. 

The White House’s report insists that, even though the percentage of unionized workers is half of what it was 40 years ago, middle-class workers really want to be unionized. In fact, according to an expert cited in the report, “A majority of nonunion workers in 2005 would vote for union representation if they could.”

Many of the recommendations are steps toward bailing out chronically underfunded union pension plans. Card check would empower unions to use mandatory binding arbitration to force companies into multi-employer pension plans.

Spreading massive pension liabilities across a larger sector of the business community is a surefire job-killer. So what’s the middle class supposed to like about the task force, anyway?

Mark Hemingway is an editorial staff writer for The Washington Examiner.

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