Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee today took some time off from questioning Steven Mnuchin’s personal financial arrangements to ask him about his views on traditional defined benefit pension funds.
The committee brought Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s choice to be the next Treasury secretary, in for a confirmation hearing.
In addition to serving as the chief financial officer for the U.S. government, the Treasury gets a seat on the board at many government agencies, including the Social Security trust fund, the Medicare trust fund and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
The PBGC is the federal agency that backs defined benefit pension funds. It’s supposed to use premium payments from sponsors of solvent pension plans to pay benefits to the beneficiaries of failed plans.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich, was one of several Democratic committee members who asked Mnuchin about his thoughts on protecting pension plan participants.
Stabenow cited a U.S. Government Accountability Officer suggesting that the failure of a large multi-employer plan could cut the value of the guarantees the PBGC offers by more than 90 percent, leaving a typical multi-employer plan participant who expects to collect $2,000 per month with just $125.
“It seems to me that’s a pretty basic promise that we need to keep,” Stabenow said of pension guarantees, according to a hearing video posted on the Senate Finance Committee website.
Mnuchin, a veteran of the investment banking, mortgage banking and film finance industries, said, “We need to protect the pension holders in this country.”
“I think the people who have earned pensions absolutely deserve to have those pensions maintained and be safe,” Mnuchin told another Democratic senator, Maria Cantwell of Washington state. “I’m very concerned about retiree issues in this country, and that’s something that I look forward to working with you and others on.”
Mnuchin talked to Stabenow generally about a need to balance interests.