Michigan Republican Congressman Tim Walberg is a tea partier’s tea partier. According to his rhetoric and actions in Congress, there are very few things that wouldn’t benefit from “local control”. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and return healthcare programs to local control. He regularly talks about “improving education and job training initiatives through more local control“. When Donald Trump’s pick for Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos was confirmed, there was Tim Walberg to say, “Betsy DeVos understands the need to restore local control and empower teachers and parents closest to the community.” He has cosponsored the “Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act“, the “Supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act“, the “Local Control of Education Act“, the “State Marriage Defense Act“, and the “State Health Flexibility Act“.
In other words, as a typical ultra-conservative Republican, Tim Walberg wants nearly all decisions made at the local and state level.
Unless, of course, it benefits his benefactors in the financial services industry. That’s when the federal government needs to step in to protect these vulnerable Americans, apparently, judging by a House Resolution recently introduced by Walberg.
Last August, the U.S. Department of Labor enacted new rules to help states set up programs to help their citizens to save for retirement. The idea was to help head off a crisis where far too many retirees have no or almost no savings to rely on after they retire from the workforce. The rules provided an exemption from state-sponsored retirement plans from having to comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a law that sets minimum standards for retirement plans. The Obama Administration was concerned that uncertainty about complying with ERISA would prevent broader adoption of state plans. Multiple states are taking advantage of this opportunity to help people in their retirement:
California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington have all approved plans and are working on rolling them out. Though the details vary by state, the basic model is to automatically enroll private sector workers who don’t have a retirement plan through their jobs into a state-sponsored IRA, with a provision to opt out.
Oregon was expected to be the first to launch a pilot program this summer.
Walberg’s resolution, H.J. Res. 66, is a “Congressional resolution of disapproval” which allows Congress to overturn agency rules within 60 legislative days of them being enacted. The resolution overturns the Dept. of Labor rule, essentially killing off these state-based programs. Walberg defended the resolution saying, the ERISA exemption is “regulatory loophole” that “puts workers, retirees and taxpayers at risk.” He said the DOL rules would have people being “forced into government-run IRAs with less financial security and fewer safeguards”. “Our nation faces difficult retirement challenges,” he said, “But more government isn’t the solution.” In other words, he’s using the power of government to restrict local action taken through rules giving more control to local governments.
In other, other words, Tim Walberg has finally found a regulation that he likes.
Why is Walberg doing this? According to Investment News, “the rules have taken heat from several business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and financial services trade organizations like the Financial Services Institute Inc. and the Investment Company Institute.” And what Big Business doesn’t like, Tim Walberg doesn’t like either.
Here’s Mark Miller from his piece “States’ rights? Not so much, when it comes to retirement savings“ at Reuters:
The House resolution is an especially aggressive reach into the business of states – and one rich in irony, considering Republicans’ frequent worship at the altar of states’ rights. But the auto-IRA programs have powerful opponents in the financial services industry who do not want to see a lower-cost government-sponsored “public option” to the retirement products they sell.
“This is a payoff to the financial services industry,” said Joshua Gotbaum, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution who is serving as chairman of the Maryland auto-IRA program.
“They are afraid of competition that would come from a huge program like this that forces them to cut their own fees,” said Gotbaum, who is a former director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federally sponsored agency that insures private sector pensions.
Given that Tim Walberg has taken $1,248,440 from the “Finance, Insurance & Real Estate” sector over the years, it’s no surprise he’s coming to their defense now.
Even if it goes against his long history of promoting “local control.”
In other words, Tim Walberg is willing to be a complete hypocrite if you pay him enough money.