Clinton Robs Pensions to Pay for New Teachers
Lucier, James P., Insight on the News
When President Clinton appeared in the Rose Garden after passage of the omnibus spending bill on Oct. 16, he was fairly bursting with pride. "We fought for, and won, vital new investments, especially for our children. By hiring 100,000 new teachers, we will reduce class size in the early grades to an average of 18." At that point, the official transcript inserted "(Applause.)." Then he went on to say, "We will enhance individual attention, increase student learning and, as we learned yesterday at the School Violence Conference, find more kids who are in trouble and need help early and prevent more bad things from happening while more good things happen."
The cost for the 100,000 teachers program will be $1.2 billion in fiscal 1999. But the way in which the president achieved this "investment" may excite the teachers' attention more than the attention of kids who are in trouble. To make the numbers work, he simply robbed $2.44 billion in real investments from the District of Columbia teachers' pension fund.
Under the congressional budget rules, no new spending can be added to the budget levels without finding an "offset" somewhere in spending already approved. Under the Balanced Budget Agreement, for which the president took full credit, the administration had to find some other program to eliminate or a pot of gold yet unlooted.
In 1997, the federal government bailed out the District by taking over some fiscal responsibilities from the foundering city government of Mayor Marion Barry, including both assets and liabilities of the District's pension funds. …