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Union Retreat May Mean no More Slush Funds

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Union Retreat May Mean no More Slush Funds

The news that the Firefighters' union is going to stop spending money at the Federal level to defend its privileges at state and local level is great news for those interested in genuine public sector reform. For years, unions have used the Federal system to get themselves slush funds. Now that they're spending less money in Washington, they should get less money out of Washington.

One example came with the funds used to shore up teachers' benefit provisions against the reforms demanded by Governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker. This slush fund originated in what might be the least responsible piece of legislation in history, the Bill With No Name.

Why is it called the Bill With No Name?

All laws passed by the US Congress contain a preamble that outlines the main scope of the act (with a catch all “and for other purposes” usually added to allow any and all amendments and riders) and a first clause containing the bill’s short title.  These days a “short title” normally contains a snappy and inaccurate acronym like the American Clean Energy and Security Act, called as such because its supporters thought a new energy tax was ACES.

In the case of HR 1586 of the 111th Congress, which became law after being signed by President Obama on August 10, 2010, they couldn’t be bothered.  Originally entitled the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, it soon moved beyond the original intention of making changes to the Federal Aviation Administration and when finally passed contained only a couple of references to the FAA budget.  The bill therefore begins in this unbelievable fashion:

One Hundred Eleventh Congress

of the

United States of America

AT  T H E  S E C O N D  S E S S I O N

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday,

the fifth day of January, two thousand and ten

An Act

To modernize the air traffic control system, improve the safety, reliability, and availability of transportation by air in the United States, provide for modernization of the air traffic control system, reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SHORT TITLE

SECTION 1. This Act may be cited as the ‘‘______ Act  Of ____’’

When we at CEI refer to it as the Bill with No Name, we mean it.

So what did the Law with No Name, as I suppose it should now be called, actually do?  Its main purpose was to create a $26.1 billion bailout fund for the States.  Given that there is no hint of this (or anything else for that matter) in the title, let’s look at the bill’s clauses (called, confusingly, Titles.)  Title I is about an “Education Jobs Fund,” and this is where the meat lies.

The Education Jobs Fund is a $10 billion slush fund for unionized teachers.  How did they fund it?  The answer is hidden in this opaque section of the law:

SUNSET OF TEMPORARY INCREASE IN BENEFITS UNDER THE SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

SEC. 203. Section 101(a) of title I of division A of Public Law  111–5 (123 Stat. 120), as amended by section 4262 of this Act, is amended by striking paragraph (2) and inserting the following:

‘‘(2) TERMINATION.—The authority provided by this subsection shall terminate after March 31, 2014.’’.

What this translates to is that public sector union employees are going to be helped by cutting $12 billion from the food stamp program.  Now, it's probable that the food stamp program isnot  the best way to help the poorest members of society, but if you're going to have such things, it’s almost certainly a better subsidy than one directed to help those already employed to maintain an affluent lifestyle.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut decided that taking food from the mouths of the neediest to help bureaucrats was the best way forward, on balance, telling Fox News:

I fought very hard for the food assistance money in the Recovery Act, and the fact is that participation in the food stamps program has jumped dramatically with the economic crisis, from 31.1 million persons to 38.2 million just in one year. But I know that states across the nation and my own state of Connecticut also desperately need these resources to save jobs and avoid Draconian cuts to essential services for low income families.

That’s the modern equivalent of the Vietnam-era claim, “we destroyed this village in order to save it.” 

If Federal legislation is freed from excesses of this sort by the union retreat to defend their existing privileges, then Scott Walker et al will have done all of us, not just the citizens of their states, a great service.