DAYTON, Ohio — From the bed of a Ford pickup truck outside a now-dilapidated former Delphi auto parts plant here, Mary Miller called for transparency from President Barack Obama over the “theft of our pensions.”
Miller, a self-described “divorced mother of four young adults,” and about 200 Delphi salaried retirees gathered at the shuttered auto plant in Dayton last Thursday morning to ask President Obama to right the wrongs they believe his administration inflicted upon them during the 2009 auto industry bailout.
The Obama administration terminated the pensions, health care and life insurance of more than 20,000 Delphi retirees during that bailout. Internal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) emails The Daily Caller published on Aug. 7 show the Obama White House and Treasury Department have consistently misrepresented the decision-making process behind the backroom deal. (RELATED: Emails: Geithner, Treasury drove cutoff of non-union Delphi workers’ pensions)
The emails demonstrate that White House and Treasury officials were behind the pension terminations and that Secretary Tim Geithner and his Treasury Department were the driving force pushing them. The emails also contradict sworn testimony in which several Obama administration figures have said the decision to terminate the pensions came from the PBGC.
The PBGC is a federal government agency that handles private-sector pension benefits issues. Its charter calls for independent representation of pension beneficiaries’ interests. Federal law is clear: The PBGC is the only government entity that may initiate termination of a pension or move toward doing so.
Last week, right before the Dayton rally where hundreds gathered to call for fair treatment and justice, TheDC published additional emails showing those same senior Obama officials’ actions enriched their former firms and may have resulted in personal financial windfalls in the process. (RELATED: Emails: Obama officials enriched former firms, possibly themselves with auto bailout)
The message from the rally on the day of Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention was clear: The 20,000 disaffected Delphi pensioners believe the president should fix what he did to them now or they will work to make sure he loses his re-election effort.
Miller and the others here don’t want to play political games, but they feel ignored by Washington. And precious few politicians — Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner, for instance, who attended the rally — have weighed in publicly on the controversy. That leaves Miller stumping like a candidate for public office, arguing for the pensions she and her fellow retirees earned with the sweat of their brows.
The plant behind Miller was once a thriving cog in American industry. Now its windows are shattered and stained. Graffiti is sprayed over the outer concrete walls. The rust on the chain-link fences around the building has almost rotted through the iron. The parking lot where many of the hundreds of protesting Delphi pensioners used to park their cars every day before work is now a jungle of weeds growing through age-old pavement cracks.
Some of the weeds have grown so high that the former autoworkers had to drive their cars around them just to get in.
The plant was destined to close, though. Market changes during the 2000s made it an unnecessary expense, and no one here blames the president for that.
Saving jobs is someone else’s fight. This protest is about retirees’ pensions.