Founded in 1978, the Reason Foundation touts itself as a non-partisan think tank that “advances a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law.” However, the Reason Foundation’s anti-pension track record makes them one of the biggest threats to public employees’ retirement security.
Here at NPPC, we have been ringing the alarm bell about the Reason Foundation for years. We’ve published several blogs and informative pieces about their harmful rhetoric–we even made a video detailing their efforts to thwart public pension funding through questionable back-room deals with lawmakers and lobbyists. Reason is a dangerously powerful and well-funded organization with ties to major right-wing players like the State Policy Network (SPN) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). By perpetuating “the sky is falling” discourse, they remain at the forefront of anti-pension communication in the press.
In 2022, they had boots on the ground in states like Arizona, trying to impose aggressive pension reforms that could damage state pension systems. Showing up at committee hearings and talking into the ears of legislators, the Reason Foundation’s pension reform consulting harms public employees by cherry-picking facts, exaggerating unfunded liability amounts, and misleading lawmakers into believing that their defined-benefit pension systems are failing. They enter states like North Dakota and imply that denying newly hired public employees access to a pension plan, and offering them 401(k)-style retirement plans instead, will “fix” the state’s funding gap. The Reason Foundation doesn’t want you to know that most public pension plans are doing well in the post-Covid, post-Great Recession market, and a positive shift in funding discipline has set many state pension systems on a clear path for a well-funded future.
In a few weeks, the legislative session starts for many states, and Reason continues to gain traction. While there is hope that these dark money groups will lose power through exposure and transparency, it is imperative that we remain vigilant in countering the misinformation spread by the Reason Foundation and other anti-pension groups so that lawmakers can remain dedicated to serving their constituents in the best way possible.