Railroad Retirement Safe Under Romney— Not Under Obama
Desperate Democrat-aligned Unions are misrepresenting Mitt Romney's platform to their membership, while being silently muted in their self-censorship of any criticism of Barack Obama.
This goes beyond misguided efforts of what they think is in their members benefit, to bordering (or embracing) political corruption by giving a completely partisan point of view (which in this case actually goes against their members best interest).
Indeed, most democrat-aligned unions, especially those that strongly advocate for democrats, unbeknownst to many of their own members, are part of and participate in what is known as the "Shadow Democrat Party" or "Shadow Party".
(George Soros, a billionaire with far left agendas, created the so called Shadow Party in 2003. It is a nationwide network or coalition of labor unions, and politically left non-profit activist groups and think tanks that will collaborate with, donate to, and utilize each other's services in order to successfully campaign for the Democrats. Specific organizations were created or assembled for the network, and funding and other services are provided to organizations within the network to provide a smooth operation and sometimes coordinated effort to meet the agenda of Soros and other large donors, get democrats elected and influence the democrat party. References include DiscovertheNetworks.org - Guide to Soros Network, FrontPageMag.com - The Shadow Party.)
The union leadership's reward for being a part of the alliance? It provides them with power and special protections from criminal investigations through the democrat party, and help through the network. This has been going on for years.
The most obvious example was when the Teamsters Union President in 1996 illegally used nearly $1 million of union funds to pay for his own reelection through a laundering scheme using the Shadow Party network and resources, including the key Shadow party member ACORN.
This is an ongoing problem with the Teamsters, with the Center for Union Facts noting that:
"According to the FBI, four of the last eight Teamsters presidents have been criminally indicted." (sidebar on left-hand bottom of page)
"Most people don't know just how many crimes are committed every year through which union officials hurt their own members. The number of reputed and verified crimes is staggering. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the hundreds of indictments of union officials for violations of the Labor Management and Reporting Disclosure Act. According to the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS)...
"Over the past 10 years, restitution of $102,615,236 has been paid or ordered to be paid to defrauded unions and other parties...
"Since FY 2001, racketeering investigations have yielded more than 2,000 indictments and awarded more than $3 billion in fines and restitution...
"■ Nearly 50% of the U.S. Department of Labor Inspector General's labor racketeering investigations involve pensions and employee welfare benefit plans.
"■ According to the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, “Schemes involving bribery, extortion, deprivation of union rights by violence, and embezzlement used by early racketeers are still employed to abuse the power of unions.” ...
"■ According to a 2004 Zogby International poll, 71% of union members said the government ought to do more to protect union members from corrupt union officials..."
In fact, Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa's team has been caught laundering union funds for his own campaign and in other illegal uses of union dues for his own campaign purposes.
Included in this Shadow Party network are the unions that belong to the AFL-CIO (e.g. See the "Shadow Party takes Shape" section here). The AFL-CIO included rail workers unions in and out of the Teamsters, until the Teamsters with 6 other unions split in 2005 to form the national trade union center called Change to Win (CtW or CTW) Federation.
However, by splitting with the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters have not disassociated with the Shadow Party.
Andy Stern, former president of the SEIU, "is a leading figure in the so-called Shadow Party, a nationwide network of more than five-dozen unions, non-profit activist groups, and think tanks" and was the founder of CTW. (See the Andy Stern link, and also his profile on FrontPage Magazine's DiscovertheNetworks.com)
More on Mr. Stern, founder of CTW (which many of the rail unions belong to):
“A November review of official visitor logs
shows Stern has visited the White House
22 times so far this year, making him the
most frequent visitor...
“Andy Stern has become organized
labor’s most powerful and influential
labor boss... In a
few short years Stern has shoved SEIU to the front of the proverbial union queue. In
2005, he led the then-1.5 million-member
SEIU out of the AFL-CIO, and created a
brand new labor federation called Change
to Win. Change to Win is chaired by SEIU
treasurer Anna Burger, while Stern sits on its seven-member leadership council
along with James P. Hoffa, president of the
Teamsters union, Terrence O’Sullivan of
the Laborers union, and Joseph Hansen of
the United Food and Commercial Workers
union. All are important—but there should
be no doubt where the young federation’s
center of gravity lies...
“Change to Win – at Politics... “We spent a fortune to
elect Barack Obama—$60.7 million to be
exact—and we’re proud of it,” Stern told
The Las Vegas Sun in May.”
BLET, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, is one of the rail workers unions that is part of the Teamsters (which helped form CTW with SEIU and a few other unions).
But one doesn't need to examine unpublicized entanglements and alliances to see they have clearly taken sides. The Teamsters have given tens of millions of dollars over the years almost exclusively to democrats (OpenSecrets.org). In early 2008, not with union members best interests in mind, but with their own self interests in mind, they endorsed Obama. They mobilized a massive effort to get him elected, and have endorsed him early again this year, and although most financial disclosures won't come out until later, have been mobilizing for him, including buying thousands of bumper stickers and rally signs.
Why is all this background information necessary? Because it is important for union members to understand that BLET (and the other rail unions making similar arguments) has a partisan agenda.
As soon as the unions knew who the republican candidate would be they began their attacks.
Initial claims and a detailed response was given on this website mid-June (with updates):
DETAILS AND FACTS ABOUT THE RAILROAD RETIREMENT AND ROMNEY »
Many people have shared what the unions have since told them.
The most recent and detailed claims were posted on BLET's website August 24th.
This website was just notified, with a request to respond.
There never was a more obvious piece of propaganda.
This article examines BLET's claims against Romney, step by step.
"Romney enlists Ryan to wage war on railroad workers" - title in bold
Romney enlisted Ryan because:
1) Romney's number one focus is to solve the nation's fiscal problems (economy, jobs and debt) and he said he would select someone with the ability and shared values of getting the economy going strong again and ending out of control deficit spending.
2) Being a prominent, young, strong political leader, Ryan would appeal to independents and undecided voters.
3) Being a fiscal and social conservative, Paul Ryan could energize the base (something the press was harping was essential since they said Romney was too moderate).
4) Selecting a popular mid-west leader from Wisconsin could turn the tide in Wisconsin and neighboring Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, and near-by Ohio, all which were leaning towards Obama, and some essential to win the election.
The fact the union is claiming Mitt Romney has a "war on railroad workers" falls into a common theme that the Obama campaign and their allies are using, where they "polarize as many groups as possible and join them together into an acrimonious coalition, not so much for anything, as against Republicans." — excerpts from a Canada Free Press article quoted and linked to in the "Editorial and Example" section of mud-slings.
This is an indication they are taking full advantage of the think tanks and other resources in the Shadow Party, if not directly coordinating with the campaign as they try to keep everyone on message in their divisive campaign.
(Another well known example of this campaign approach they are taking is their claim Mitt Romney has a "war on women" which is just as absurd as their other claims, as he has demonstrated differently throughout his life – please see the short NY Times video at the bottom of the ann-romney.htm page that shows his respect and devotion to his mother as well as to women in general, or the video speech of his Secretary of Workforce at the August Republican Convention: August Election News where it is noted that in addition to selecting a female Lt. Governor and having half of his cabinet women (10 of 20 positions), during his four years he transformed the state government so that Massachusetts was ranked 1st in the nation in the number of women in senior government positions, although when he took office, although women were a majority of the state government workforce, they had only held 30% of those positions. She gives some other very good commentary on this subject.)
"House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan [is] the architect of a plan to gut the pension rights of railroad workers."
There was no plan to gut the railroad retirement. (Gut means eviscerate or remove all the contents of, or destroy from the inside such as a fire gutting a building. This is a very inflammatory statement claiming Paul Ryan wanted to destroy the railroad retirement and all rights to it, and take all the funds or contents of it. That is so over the top, one does not even have to think twice to realize the union is making the most outrageous, untruthful claims possible to scare and rile up their members with such partisan language.)
There was not even a plan to change the railroad retirement. Yes, that is correct:
First, Paul Ryan introduced the Budget Roadmap.
It did not propose any changes to the railroad retirement.
Second, Paul Ryan introduced the Budget Blueprint.
It did not propose any changes to the railroad retirement.
Third, Paul Ryan introduced the House Budget (H.Con.Res.112) [Version RH - Reported to House] on March 23, 2012. It did not propose any changes to the railroad retirement. (As can be seen by reading it, by clicking on the link.)
By reading it one sees it does not even have the details of the blueprint. It simply set spending limits for the 2013 budget with proposed limits for the years beyond. The limits were not even that austere. Starting with the 2013 budget, each year's budget would be in the trillions and would grow year after year. And as the budget states, the total national debt would grow by trillions with this proposal. This budget simply set some limits on the previously unrestrained, out of control spending the President has been doing for four years.
Finally, the senate rejected their version of the House Budget (H.Con.Res.112) [Version PCS - Placed on Calendar Senate] on May 16, 2012. This senate version also did not propose any changes to the railroad retirement. (As can be seen by clicking on the link, which has the bill's text). This was simply the senate refusing to commit to budget levels that still increased the debt by trillions with multi-trillion dollar annual budgets.
The above House Budget versions are linked to the official government legislative site. (From that link, one can also get to the House and Senate votes on those bills.)
SO HOW DID BLET COME UP WITH SUCH AN OUTRAGEOUS CLAIM?
Now, most lies are not made out of whole cloth. Although close in this case, there was actually a tiny thread of facts that were used to weave this lie.
Accompanying the House Budget that came out of committee, was a House Report.
This House Report, called HR-112-421 or House Report 421, contained a discussion by both the majority and minority (a majority discussion by the Republicans and a minority discussion by the Democrats) of what could be considered in future votes by the House and Senate to make the spending fit within the proposed budget.
On Page 47 of the report is a major section of the report titled "FUNCTION BY FUNCTION PRESENTATION". Under this heading, on this page, is explained "the functions are prospective... they are not binding". Under this section, one of the Function subsections is "FUNCTION 600: INCOME SECURITY" that starts on page 99. On this page it is again emphasized that the following proposals are only "Committee Recommendations" of budget areas that could be examined further. On page 100, the second page of this subsection, is a sub-subsection titled "Illustrative Policy Options". This subsection explains:
"Illustrative policy options... that could be considered by the committees... are the following:
"... Conform Railroad Retirement Tier 1 Benefits to Social Security Benefits."
Elsewhere in the report is explained (although it doesn't need to be) that "the committees of jurisdiction will determine the actual policies".
In other words, this report, which states itself that it is not binding, and which was never voted on, which clearly does not make it law, or binding, says it is only giving suggestions of what various congressional committees could consider to examine.
It does not say the committees have to examine those suggestions. It certainly doesn't say that if committees do examine the proposals they have to approve them for a vote by congress.
So there was no plan to gut or even change the railroad retirement. Only a non-binding report suggesting as an illustration that House committees could consider investigating whether to even propose a plan to change the retirement.
As soon as this proposed evaluation came out, congress got heat on that subject. (A good example is the level headed and well informed memo by the AAR President.) As a result of being informed of such concerns, although the House Budget that came out of committee (Budget version RH) referenced the report for illustrative purposes, Paul Ryan removed all references to the report, in the budget that the House passed (Budget version EH).
To repeat, the House Budget passed by the House divorced itself so completely from the report, that it didn't even mention the report. And there was no mention of the railroad retirement in the House Budget on top of that.
"House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan [is] the architect" of the non-plan.
As noted above, Paul Ryan was the architect of the Budget Roadmap, Budget Blueprint and proposed House Budget, which was later voted on by the House and Senate. None of them proposed any changes to the railroad retirement.
Paul Ryan headed the Budget Committee which consisted of 40 members including congressmen and professional staff, which then got down into the nuts and bolts of investigating and suggesting budget areas that could be trimmed. They placed these in a detailed report that they wrote, House Report 112-421. Report 421 contained illustrative examples, proposing areas that subsequent committees of jurisdiction could look into in making their own budget plans that would meet spending limits, which they could then submit to congress for a vote.
Paul Ryan led this effort, and approved and released this report, which contained illustrative proposals, but no plan to change (or "gut") the railroad retirement. This 230 page report (with 222 numbered pages) contains the names of 40 people involved in its creation (which does not include their staff of many more people helping in this effort). In this 230 page report with 40 listed authors, who was it that wrote the one ill-advised paragraph that contained an illustrative proposal related to the railroad retirement? It is not specified. But one thing is certain: it is another false assumption by the union and their officials, to call Paul Ryan the architect of that paragraph when they do not know he wrote that and it is almost certain he did not write it.
One thing we do know. Paul Ryan removed reference to that report from the Budget that he brought before the House for a vote, then sent on to the Senate.
“With... Ryan’s infamous budget plan that would destroy Railroad Retirement Tier 1 benefits, there could be many dark days ahead from railroaders if this pair is elected in November.” — BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce
We've already demonstrated Ryan's budget plan, from conception (with the roadmap and blueprint) to completion (with the House Budget, H.Con.Res.112, which was passed by the house and rejected by the senate), did not change or have any wording to change the railroad retirement.
But if with the unions doubling down and deceitfully claiming over and over that the House Budget did contain it, the reader is confused or doubtful, we appeal to the Railroad Retirement Board.
The RRB stated "no such legislation has been introduced" as their final conclusion in a memo talking about the paragraph referenced in the House report.
But none-the-less, let's examine the Union president's dishonest and inflammatory statement.
The ill-advised paragraph in the report is a bad idea. But would it "destroy Railroad Retirement Tier 1 benefits"? No, again that is an over the top, inflammatory and dishonest statement. It would baseline them with social security, not eliminate or "destroy" them. Mr. Pierce, with his gutted and destroyed and dark days comments, seems to imply that the ill-advised proposal, which Romney has never spoken out in support of, would take away all of people's Tier 1 benefits (not baseline them with social security).
“With Romney’s campaign trail promises to slash Amtrak funding”
This is a red-herring. That is, it is an argument that distracts or changes the subject from the real point of contention: Would Romney cut railroad retirement benefits (which is no).
People can argue over whether Amtrak should be government run and subsidized or privatized. (Romney thinks that by privatizing it, it will actually grow and prosper. Amtrak loses billions of dollars, like the Post Office. But would Amtrak grow and thrive as a private enterprise, like UPS and FedEx have done? That is part of the bigger argument between Romney and Obama, of how much government deficit causing ownership, funding and control of everything in the economy from healthcare to Amtrak is good for the country.)
How to keep and grow Amtrak jobs is not the large, looming concern on everyone's mind in the industry. It is 'are the scary claims by the union about the railroad retirement being destroyed if Romney gets elected true?'
But one thing this BLET page does make clear: They are unabashedly going to be as biased and negative as possible. As a reference to this Amtrak issue and others, they have linked to blog articles by thinkprogress.org. That is one of the most "progressive", leftist blogs that one could find, giving the most biased and negative report on Romney possible.
Why not let Romney speak for himself by linking to Romney's own statement and explanation of his views on Amtrak? (Such as on page 6 of his fiscal policy or the spending page on his website?) Or give both sides of an argument, including that Amtrak is full of waste, fraud and a lack of meeting its own budget? Or replace the thinkprogress.org article with one more balanced, including a Bloomberg article that is critical of past republican attempts to deal with Amtrak's deficits and problems, but also notes private passenger trains are more profitable and well run and that privatizing of trains in the past, when done properly, has succeeded?
BLET's criticism of this is somewhat ironic, given their support to privatize the Railroad Retirement Accounts, turning them into the Railroad Retirement Investment Trust (RRIT) in 2001. I guess since the effort was led by their party of choice (a majority democrat congress) they were for it, even though the republicans overwhelmingly voted for it and supported it as well, and a republican president signed it into law. Any bets that if Ryan had proposed the change to move the Railroad Retirement Accounts to RRIT that these union hacks would NOT have claimed he was trying to gut and destroy your retirement? I didn't think so.
BLET's claim that Paul Ryan is the author and primary sponsor of the House budget that passed earlier this year, and that the House Report 112-421 (which is different from the House budget that was passed) contained the paragraph listed is accurate.
What may be a little misleading is their claim that "Conform Railroad Retirement Tier 1 Benefits to Social Security Benefits" was a heading in the report. It was actually only the first sentence in the paragraph that they then quote. That paragraph was in a subsection with a bolded, stand-alone heading "Illustrative Policy Options" as previously noted.
They are clearly ignoring the true heading in that section in their commentary of the report, not mentioning it, while trying to elevate the illustrative option to a plan with a heading.
Five bullet points are listed of what the "disastrous effects" would be.
BLET's above argument of "disastrous effects" and specifically of the five cuts in benefits are baseless. As stated by the RRB, an organization demonstrating credibility,
“cannot comment specifically on what changes to tier I benefits would be made under this resolution without seeing the legislative language that would be used to amend the Railroad Retirement Act. At this time, no such legislation has been introduced.”
In addition, no evidence could be found of why BLET thinks medical costs would go up, the disability program would be eliminated, and retiree and spousal benefits would be cut.
The RRB provided a report of changes to the retirement fund by the law of 2001. While they go into greater detail, they summarize:
“The legislation liberalizes early retirement benefits for 30-year employees, eliminates a cap on monthly retirement and disability benefits, lowers the minimum service requirement from 10 years to 5 years of service if performed after 1995, and provides increased benefits for some widow(er)s.”
While the valuable 60/30 benefit would be lost to a 62 age retirement under a law that baselined tier 1 to social security, most of the other benefits, including additional benefits given by the 2001 law, were tier II benefits.
BLET's claim that changing the Tier 1 benefits will not save taxpayer dollars is valid. But they again go into spin mode when they say:
"In a May 14 letter to a California constituent, Ryan not only admitted that his budget plan would strip railroad workers of their unique Railroad Retirement benefits..."
In their provided letter he reiterates that his budget plan does not strip railroad workers of unique retirement benefits, instead noting that the report accompanying the budget resolution "offers illustrative policy options and assumptions" and "does not hold the force of law".
Furthermore, rather than admitting the report suggested stripping railroad workers of their unique benefits, he reiterated that they "do not effect Tier II benefits."
Demonstrating that sensible feedback, such as the AAR memo noted above and that voter's feedback, help congress understand the issues, Paul Ryan stated that the person raised "interesting and insightful points regarding this issue."
But demonstrating more feedback is important (and perhaps that politicians don't like to admit a change that can label them as having been wrong or a flip-flopper) he doesn't disavow that idea.
Rail workers are strongly encouraged to give their feedback to the Romney campaign at their "Contact Us" page.
Paul Ryan "made the assertion that “Tier 1 Retirement Benefits are... invested in special non-marketable bonds, just like with Social Security.” This claim, too, is demonstrably false."
The "Board of seven trustees is empowered to invest Trust assets in non-governmental assets, such as equities and debt, as well as in governmental securities." — RRB.gov - The Railroad Retirement And Survivors' Improvement Act Of 2001
In other words, the board can and does invest in government securities, but also can and does invest in marketable, non-government securities. (Does BLET think the RRB fully divested the fund of all government securities, or do they think that by owning non-government securities that it is "demonstrably false" to note that the Tier I and Tier II benefits are also invested in, and therefore funded by government securities, as social security is? This seems to show their partisan bias that causes them to intentionally misconstrue and misrepresent everything they can that their supposed enemy states or does.)
"The Ryan Budget also targets the retiree medical benefits of railroad workers and all Americans..."
Putting aside all the misrepresentations made about Ryan's budget plan, including on Medicare, Mitt Romney will be the President, not Paul Ryan.
Mitt Romney's Medicare plan does not cut Medicare, but Barack Obama's plan significantly cuts Medicare. Furthermore, Pres. Obama has acknowledged that even had he not cut Medicare, "If we didn't do anything, then Medicare and Medicaid would gobble up, basically the entire federal budget." Obama then did and proposed nothing to fix Medicare.
MEDICARE AND THE RAILROAD RETIREMENT »
"On March 20, while stumping in Chicago, Romney said “I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier. ...I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.” More recently, he vowed that, if he were President he would have signed the Ryan Budget if it had crossed his desk."
While the above statement is accurate, BLET fails to note to their reader that the March 20th statement was made before House Report 421 came out, and the budget that was passed by the House of Representatives scrubbed any mention of House Report 421 from the bill.
They are trying to imply or accuse Romney of giving verbal support to a provision that he never praised in a report that he never praised, and in fact he never praised the initial budget that linked to the report, only the one that didn't, which passed the House.
Furthermore, completely ignoring that Mitt Romney has said he has his own budget and spending plan that is different from Paul Ryan's, and that it doesn't include any changes on the railroad retirement, BLET is giving the same old flawed argument, that because Mitt Romney praised Ryan's budget efforts and approach, and selected him as V.P., therefore anything negative, true or false, that the BLET tags onto Ryan, they will also insist that Romney will be guilty of doing.
The Railroad Retirement is Unsafe Under Obama:
During the less than four years Obama has been in office, the national debt has sky-rocketed, the public debt as a percentage of GDP has increased from historically typical levels to unprecedented and dangerous levels, putting the country on a trajectory similar to or worst than Greece, stimulus and other American jobs have been outsourced while unemployment remains painfully high, Social Security and Medicare are running unsustainable debts with no efforts or plans to fix them, all while unimaginable (and unmanageable) amounts of money are being printed to try to prop up the economy and the dollar, but have the risk of collapsing the dollar and creating a fiscal cliff where countries will no longer purchase the U.S. debt needed to keep the economy running.
The dangerous and truly scary cracks are already showing: For the first time in history, U.S. bond and credit ratings have been downgraded, measures such as the Consumer Comfort Index (CCI) have been stuck in very low and negative territory, and on average, American wages are down while many prices are up.
Metrics on all these can be found:
ECONOMIC METRICS UNDER OBAMA AND ROMNEY »
Details abound, including that Obama has added well over $5 trillion dollars to the national debt, more than all eight years of President Bush combined. Furthermore, his current spending and budget plans put him on track, if here were reelected, of creating more national debt than all the past U.S. presidents combined.
If things do not turn around, the economy will sputter and possibly fail, stocks and bonds will lose their value, pension funds could dry up, and costs could easily soar.
That will hurt rail workers and all Americans, with the RRIT not keeping pace in growth and possibly greatly shrinking, and what savings and earnings people have could result in far less buying power.
A new president with economic experience and fiscal discipline is the best chance of averting problems, having a strong economy, and a secure retirement fund.
~Webmaster, aboutMittRomney.com (John Stevens)