The ‘Plot Against Pensions’ Takes Aim At California

Isaiah J. Poole

David Sirota, the author of the Institute for America’s Future report on “The Plot Against Pensions” that detailed the right-wing collaboration to dismantle public pension programs around the country, is now reporting in Salon that “the Enron billionaire whose former company wrecked the Golden State’s economy appears to be using a shadowy Texas front group to now try to loot the Golden State’s public pension system.”

That “Enron billionaire” is John Arnold, who “The Plot Against Pensions” exposes as the person collaborating with an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts to promote the idea that there is a “public pension crisis” that must be “solved” by cutting benefits to workers and privatizing the plans themselves, turning them into profit centers for Wall Street fund managers.

Arnold’s latest move was first reported by the Sacramento Bee, which wrote that a group called “Action Now Initiative” was tapped by San Jose, Calif., mayor Chuck Reed to do “policy analysis for statewide pension reform,” in preparation for a ballot initiative campaign in 2014. The Bee reported that Action Now Initiative is at the same address as the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. OurFuture.org confirmed that both Laura Arnold and John Arnold are listed as directors on its 2011 tax-exemption form filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Sirota writes in Salon:

As IRS financial reports show, Arnold has already been funneling money to right-wing groups in California that promote plans to slash retiree benefits. PR-wise, the effort has worked – Google “California” and “pension” and inevitably you will be hit with a wave of media sensationalism about how an alleged financial emergency in the Golden State means retiree benefits must be cut (even as far more expensive corporate welfare is preserved). Most of that news coverage doesn’t mention any inconvenient facts that might debunk the hysteria.

With that as the backdrop, California voters are about to be hit with a wave of propaganda designed to scare them into signing off on a plan that would force workers to bear the burden of pension shortfalls, when the real culprits are politicians who shortchanged the pension funds so they could bankroll tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy.

The implications for conservative ideologues like Arnold and the founders of the Pew Charitable Trusts, as well as for Wall Street vulture capitalists, are clear. Sirota writes: “Arnold almost certainly knows that because of the size of its economy, California often sets standards for the rest of the country” and, if he gets his way, “could create a pension-slashing domino effect in other states” that would be “a huge private profit opportunity” for Wall Street – and a big loss for workers.

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