Fiduciary Shmiduciary

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We all know that the Bush administration continues to waste millions in taxpayer dollars pimping a Social Security phase-out scheme that no one even wants. Worse, his Bamboozlepalooza tour is anti-efficient: the more people hear, the less they like. So what’s a poor president to do? Easy. Whine about all the money your opponents are spending:

The Bush administration has warned the nation’s biggest labor federation that union-run pension funds may be breaking the law in opposing President Bush’s Social Security proposals.

In a letter on Tuesday to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Department of Labor said it was “very concerned” that pension plans might be spending workers’ money to “advocate a particular result in the current Social Security debate.”

Blah, blah. This is all very silly. But there’s a more important point here that Nathan Newman touches on. Why shouldn’t pension money be used for this sort of thing? After all, the fate of labor density here in America rests, to some extent, on whether or not Bush’s anti-worker agenda can be stopped in its tracks. Under most current rules, pension managers are supposed to adhere to certain fiduciary standards in which they’re only supposed to maximize returns on their investments. Conservatives cry foul whenever they hear about some pension manager doing “activist” investing of some sort or other. (See William Greider’s article here for more on this growing practice, and the rationale behind it.) And yet taking action to oppose the Bush administration really is yet another way to maximize those returns—perhaps the best way.

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