TO THE exasperation of budget hawks, Donald Trump has long made clear that he will not reform Social Security (public pensions). But maintaining these entitlements does not fully protect workers’ retirement income. For many, pension promises from their employers are more important. These can shrink or vanish when firms fail. And, like Social Security, the programme that protects retirees against such losses—the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation—is going bust.
The PBGC levies premiums on defined-benefit pension plans in order to bail out those that fail (up to a maximum payout per worker). On current trends, one of its insurance schemes will probably run dry by 2025. The problem is so-called “multi-employer” funds (see chart). These involve multiple firms, usually under an agreement with an industry-wide union. They cover about 10m Americans, roughly 1m of whom are in a plan that admits it is probably broke. The biggest struggler is the Central States fund, which covers about 400,000…Continue reading