Here’s the state of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a Federal government entity set up to insure union-negotiated pension plans.
Overall, the PBGC has total assets of $90 billion and total liabilities of $152 billion.
The multiemployer subset of that, the section of the PBGC that “guarantees” union-sponsored pension plans to which groups of companies belong, has total assets of $1.8 billion and total liabilities of $44 billion.
The single employer subset, the PBGC section that “guarantees” the pensions of individual companies, has total assets of $88 billion and total liabilities of $107 billion.
The reason for this is that what are being insured are not just any old pension plans, but defined benefit pensions in particular. Recall that these are the plans that guarantee a pensioner a set amount of money every month for life, regardless of how much money the pension plan actually has in it. Somebody has to make up the difference and make the payments, or the plan goes bust, and the pensioner gets nothing. With the PBGC, that guarantor is you and I: us taxpayers.
Of course, the PBGC proclaims that it has never taken a penny of taxpayer money, and that’s true. But the PBGC has never been in worse shape, either, and it’s deteriorating rapidly. Last year, the PBGC was in the hole only $36 billion, compared to this year’s $63 billion pit.
The PBGC also proudly proclaims its mission is to
encourage the continuation and maintenance of private-sector defined benefit plans.
Fine. Congress, as part of the budget bill it will pass next winter, should cut us taxpayers out of this corporation altogether. Congress should spin off the PBGC into a wholly private sector insurance corporation with no ties to the Federal government at all. Let the new company prosper or fail entirely on the private sector merits of encouraging and insuring private-sector defined benefit plans.