LaborTalk for May 27, 2011

Labor Should Have a Seat at the Table
When Spending Cuts Are Being Debated

By Harry Kelber

Negotiations between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, representing the Republican position, must be concluded in an agreement by Aug. 2 or the United States will default on its debt obligations and risk the shutting down of the government.

Republicans want deficit savings to match the $2 trillion that will be needed to raise the borrowing limit of the U.S. Treasury through 2012. If they don't get their way, they may refuse to raise the debt ceiling, causing catastrophic fallout for the U.S. and the world economy.

Democrats, led by President Obama, say they too want to control spending, although they have criticized the spending cuts proposed by the Republicans as too drastic.

Speaking for the Obama administration, Vice President Joe Biden said the talks would seek longer-range savings of up to $4 trillion over ten years by devising procedural mechanisms or "triggers" to force automatic deficit reductions.

Democrats and Republicans still have not agreed on the size and content of the spending cuts. The Democrats want to increase federal revenues by raising taxes on the rich and corporations; but the Republicans are adamantly opposed to the idea.

Deep cuts in Medicare, Medicade, Social Security and many programs that benefit working people are still on the negotiating table, with decisions to be made without the input from organized labor. The plight of the unemployed is not on the budget-cutting agenda.

The AFL-CIO Should Demand to Be Heard

We should not allow Democrats and Republicans to decide on their own about which of our programs should be cut and by how much, without giving working people and their unions an equal voice at the negotiating table. It is unfair and senseless to give a blank check to the two political parties, each of which have their own agenda that may be contrary to ours.

There are still two months before the Aug. 2 deadline on raising the federal deficit ceiling—ample time for our labor representatives to become actively involved in the negotiations.

* * *

The federal deficit debate offers the AFL-CIO an opportunity to put into practice the principles proposed by President Trumka, in which he said: "What workers want is an independent labor movement that builds the power of working people--in the workplace and in political life."

Here is a chance to put those principles into practice. We should not allow the two major political parties to make decisions about our lives without our full participation.

LaborTalk will be posted here on May 31, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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