You might have heard about the new allegations against the Treasury Department: Tim Geithner and his subordinates cut the pensions of 20,000 non-unionized workers while expanding the pensions of union members at the very same company, an auto parts manufacturer called Delphi.

The Daily Caller has email records showing that the Treasury – specifically the “auto restructuring” advisers – were the ones slashing the pensions.  This is crime number one, since the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (an independent agency that is not funded by tax dollars) was supposed to be the one deciding on the Delphi employee pensions.   If the emails are what they seem – the Treasury Department was sticking its nose where it did not belong.

The second allegation here is that the fate of each employee’s pension was determined by whether or not that person was a union member.  I’m not going to fight about whether union or non-union members are more deserving of the larger pensions.  After all, I’ve never even met these people.  But neither has Tim Geithner!  Which brings me to the real issue here: whatever criteria was used to decide whose pensions were cut and whose were boosted is irrelevant.  The problem is that the Treasury favored any group of people over any other group of people.  I don’t care who that group is – if it’s union members, or union nonmembers, or people with curly hair, or Colonel Mustard in the ballroom with the candlestick.  The government is not allowed to pick winners and losers in what is supposed to be a free marketplace.

Some folks on the right sum up this issue to one statement: “unions are bad.”  We can try to fight that fight here – but we ought to be fighting about something much bigger.  This is not about which Delphi employees worked hardest or contributed most to their pension plans.  That’s a private discussion that belongs in the private sector.  This is about government intervention, and when it has gone too far.

Not only has the government overstepped its bounds, but there is reason to believe that the officials doing the overstepping also lied about their actions.  The third alleged crime is that Treasury Department officials testified about this under oath.  One of them, Matt Feldman, said that “Delphi and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation were forced to terminate Delphi’s pension plans, which means that there are Delphi retirees who unfortunately will collect less than their full pension benefits.”  But the email records tell a different story: that the PBGC people – the ones who were supposed to make the decision – weren’t even at the meeting.

So, where do we go from here?  Checks and balances would dictate that the judiciary or Congress or both are responsible for getting to the bottom of this and holding the Treasury officials accountable for testimony that doesn’t match with the evidence.  But Congress doesn’t meet again until mid-September, and it’s got bigger fish to fry (a budget, maybe? how about that farm bill? or the postal service, which is now out of money?).  For the Judicial Branch to take action, someone would have to sue the Treasury Department.  This may very well be possible at some point in the future, but not before the Presidential Election, since the court system is notoriously slow.  And do we think the Department of Justice is going to do any kind of research into what happened with the Delphi pensions?  We’re talking about the same DOJ that has bungled its prosecutions of John Edwards and Ted Stevens, ignored blatant acts of voter intimidation, and brought you the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal.  I’ll take “‘Ain’t Gonna Happen’ for 500, Alex!”

So, we cannot say for certain whether or not those three crimes were committed by the Treasury Department.  The fourth failure of government is that we will probably not get a real answer anytime soon.

Maybe we should care about these Treasury folks.  They are the ones who collect taxes.  They’re the ones in charge of managing the national debt.  To paraphrase the Notorious B.I.G., “mo’ money, mo’ problems.”  The people at the top of the department are also some of the President’s chief economic advisers.

Pictured: A revolutionary economist.

Polls have made it blatantly clear that the 2012 Presidential election will be won or lost based on the economy.  (Interestingly enough, “government ethics and corruption” ranks third on the Rasmussen list of voter concerns.)  The Left probably doesn’t want to talk about the Delphi scandal.  They do want to talk about Ann Romney’s horse.  But as far as I’ve heard, the horse hasn’t taken anyone’s pension or lied under oath… so you know, priorities.  We have to keep pushing for answers.  This is bigger than Delphi, bigger than the unions, bigger than the auto bailout that got the Treasury involved in the first place.  Though everyone impacted by the Delphi scandal deserves justice, we cannot keep the dialogue stuck on one company and one meeting and one collection of emails.  What happened at Delphi is a symptom of a large problem, and that’s what we should be talking about.  We have to fight the big fight in defense of the free market.


Angela Morabito | Georgetown University | @_Angela Morabito