John Kline, Slated to Get 50k Pension, Axes Retirement Benefits for Millions of Workers

The seven-term GOP congressman and retired Marine colonel has plenty to smile about.

The seven-term GOP congressman and retired Marine colonel has plenty to smile about.

For Congressman John Kline, last week was especially epic.

The Minnesota representative kicked off his week by fighting the good fight to allow companies that do business with the federal government the right to discriminate against gay employees. But championing institutionalized bigotry wasn't enough for our hero.

See also: Congressman John Kline Wants to Uphold the Right to Discriminate Against Gays

The congressman, who receives a salary pushing $200,000 and whose government pension will amount to no less than $41,000, coxswained the GOP's effort to cut the pensions of millions of Americans.

The measure would allow pension plans, many of them hit with investment losses from the recession, to reduce the benefits they pay out to both current and future retirees.

Proponents contend the provision is needed to salvage the nation's most distressed pension plans, which have been chronically under-funded for years, and are now facing imminent collapse.

Kline, whose congressional pension will most likely be on the north side of $50,000 when he finally leaves office, called the failing plans "a ticking time bomb" that mandated lawmaker intervention.

Others aren't so sure.

While there's agreement that many of the 1,400 plans will face insolvency issues in the coming years, opponents say the move was made in haste, accusing the likes of Kline for sticking it to workers, who make for an easy target.

Says Wade Phillips, state director of AARP in Minnesota, "Cuts that impact retirees should be the last resort, not the first."

In lieu of cutting benefits, some of the alternatives suggested have been merging weaker plans with those more solvent in an effort to combine assets and spread out liabilities, as well as hiking the plans' contribution rates for employers, unions, and perhaps, current workers.

Meanwhile, officials at the Pension Rights Center, a group backed by foundations and unions, worry that the Congressional move sets a precedent that could weaken the protections of single-employer pension plans and even Social Security.

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