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AFL-CIO Now

How the Government Shutdown Hurts Real People

Photo courtesy Speaker Boehner's Flickr feed.

House Republicans are proceeding with plans that would force a government shutdown, despite the fact that America's working families overwhelmingly disapprove of their tactics.  In a CBS/New York Times poll last week, 80% of respondents said that it would be unacceptable for lawmakers to threaten a shutdown to achieve their goals, yet that's exactly what Republicans are doing.

As usual, though, the Republican "goals" seem to be unfocused and not based on anything that would actually help America's workers or create jobs. Instead Republicans have threatened to shut down the government over no fewer than 21 different demands, from means-testing Social Security (a benefit cut that will harm middle income people) and defunding Obamacare, to the elimination of health insurance coverage for birth control and slashing food stamp funding. A government shutdown locks people out from accessing their government, and federal workers are being locked out from performing their jobs on the behalf of the American people.  

What is much clearer than the scattered Republican agenda, which amounts to little more than "beat Obama," is the fact that a government lockout would inflict serious pain on everyday working people.

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The AFL-CIO is very clear in its goals during the budget process: There should be no negotiation around the debt ceiling, it should be increased and government should not shut down; the sequester should be repealed, not replaced; there should be no benefit cuts to social insurance earned benefits such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; the government should end all tax subsidies for outsourcing jobs; and any deal should protect vital services for America's working families, including food stamp (SNAP) funding.

Several unions are already weighing in on how bad an idea the government lockout would be.  AFGE, which represents many federal government workers, released a statement from its president, J. David Cox, Sr.:

I have made crystal clear to the administration that federal employees have already sacrificed more than enough to these serial, manufactured budget crises.

After three years of frozen pay, unpaid furloughs, huge increases in retirement costs for new employees, and the threat of massive layoffs at the Department of Defense and elsewhere, Congress and the administration need to keep their hands off of federal employees once and for all.

Our members’ jobs, pay and benefits absolutely cannot be used again as a pointless gesture of goodwill, an olive branch, or bargaining chip to try to appease extremists. Federal employees must not be any part of any deal to end or reduce the sequester, fund the Affordable Care Act, or raise the debt ceiling. The administration must keep its promise not to negotiate with bullies, to stand firm in opposition to each and every attempt to freeze pay, cut federal retirement, cut Social Security benefits, or undermine health care of its own workforce.

Fifty percent of our members may be locked out of work altogether during this shutdown; half will be expected to continue to work without a paycheck. One hundred percent want to go to work and provide services to the American people and a paycheck to support their families.”

Read more on AFGE from Salon's Josh Eidelson: GOP Shutdown Tactics Will Cause 'Involuntary Servitude,' Union Says.

AFT President Randi Weingarten also spoke out on the shutdown, via press release:

Some extremists who have the ear of the House Republican leadership are making a mockery of our democracy, and in so doing, may cause our economy to spin out into another recession. As a former civics teacher, I find this appalling. What they are threatening to do puts at risk the futures and the dreams of kids all over this country.

We need to ensure the welfare of the nation’s neediest kids and reclaim the promise of public education for all children. A government shutdown, for example, could immediately cut an estimated 19,000 Head Start and Early Head Start spots across 10 states. The effects of the shutdown would compound the billions of dollars in sequestration cuts that affected programs for students with disabilities and disadvantaged students and early childhood education services for low-income children. We need to spend less time talking about a needless shutdown and more time figuring out how to end sequestration in 2014 in its entirety.

 
The far right wing’s craven political brinkmanship is reckless and irresponsible. A shutdown would be terrible for our fragile economy. A brief shutdown would put about a million federal employees out of work; that is enough to undo the last six months of job growth in the private sector. A shutdown of up to a month would reduce real GDP by an estimated 1.4 percentage points in the fourth quarter, while a two-month shutdown would put the economy back into recession. The last recession drove 2.7 million children into poverty.

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