The budget that President Obama released today is drawing intense criticism for its cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called those cuts “wrong and indefensible.”
A president’s budget is more than just numbers. It is a profoundly moral document. We believe cutting Social Security benefits and shifting costs to Medicare beneficiaries—while exempting corporate America from shared sacrifice—is wrong and indefensible.
A beat-up van pulls to a stop just up the road. A creaky screen door opens from the apartment at the end of the building. A young African American girl runs out toward the van, barely hanging onto a large gym bag that was obviously not meant for such a pint-sized carrier. The driver of the van, a middle-aged white man with glasses and a beard, throws the passenger door to the van open and the little girl tosses the bag onto the floor before climbing in. The apartment door, which had banged shut in the meantime, creaks open again as the girl’s mother waves goodbye.
“Be good. Have fun,” she tells her daughter.
“I’ll have her back by eight,” the driver replies, as the little girl shuts the van door and waves goodbye to her mom.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council today called on Congress to repeal—not replace—the economically destructive budget cuts that Republicans in Congress are using as leverage to demand Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare benefit cuts. If the sequester is to be replaced, in whole or in part, the council called for closing tax loopholes for Wall Street and the wealthiest 2%, which would minimize harm to the economy.
Working families aren't fooled. There's nothing "fair and balanced" about the Bowles-Simpson budget plan that would ultimately increase unemployment, cut Social Security benefits, tax workers’ health benefits and scapegoat federal employees while giving more tax breaks for sending jobs overseas and lowering tax rates for Wall Street and the wealthiest 2%. Yesterday, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) introduced an amendment to H.R. 444, that would direct President Obama to follow the budget recommendations of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, known as the Bowles-Simpson plan.
Brace yourself. In coming weeks you’ll hear there’s no serious alternative to cutting Social Security and Medicare, raising taxes on middle class and decimating what’s left of the federal government’s discretionary spending, on everything from education and job training to highways and basic research.
“We” must make these sacrifices, it will be said, in order to deal with our mushrooming budget deficit and cumulative debt.
But most of the people who are making this argument are very wealthy or are sponsored by the very wealthy: Wall Street moguls like Peter Peterson and his “Fix the Debt” brigade, the Business Roundtable, well-appointed think tanks and policy centers along the Potomac, members of the Simpson-Bowles commission.
While government in Washington, D.C., remains divided and marked by long-term gridlock, governments in the states are much less divided. Of the 50 states, 37 now feature state governments where the governor and majorities in both legislative houses are controlled by one party—24 of those are controlled by Republicans. Extreme, anti-working family Republicans have repeatedly assaulted the rights of people in recent years and, by all accounts, the trend looks to expand in 2013. Working families are mobilized and fought back in 2012 and will continue to fight in 2013. The response to the "right to work" for less push in Michigan was so strong, that governors in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have since declared that they won't push for right to work in their states.
Some news outlets have suggested that Republicans have changed their position on taxes after their resounding defeat on Tuesday. This is not the case. Republicans are still demanding lower tax rates for the richest 2% of Americans, paid for by cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.
Yesterday, the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, said that Republicans are “willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions.” But this is the same position Republicans have staked out for more than a year.
But it gets even worse: Ryan’s plan, which the U.S. House has approved already, would gut what little is left of state budgets by slashing funding for a range of programs. States and localities would lose $247 billion from 2013 through 2021, in addition to the cuts they would absorb because of caps on national spending, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). (Click on chart at left to expand.)