On Friday, July 6, President Obama signed into law a bill that would renew transportation programs and extend low interest rates on student loans for one year. While this minimal gesture resulted in, no doubt, sighs of relief from those burdened by student debt, tucked away within the bill’s pages was a little-noticed proposal to further erode the funding of workers’ pensions. The bill was a brilliant sleight of hand where what it appeared to be giving with one hand distracted the public from what it was taking away with the other.
Aside from the more publicly known parts of this bill, it also reduced the amount that corporations pay into an already grossly underfunded pension system. The way it achieved this is with a complex equation factoring in interest rates, changes in how businesses calculate what they must contribute to retirement premiums, and how these contributions are tax deductible. The end result of this opaque process of number crunching is that, according to the Society of Actuaries, employer pension contributions will be reduced overall from a mandatory $80 billion to $45 billion this year alone. Next year this amount will be slashed by $73 billion. (1)