LaborTalk for July 12, 2011

In Secret Talks with GOP, Obama Agrees
To Cuts in Medicare and Social Security

By Harry Kelber

How many Americans know what "$4 trillion" will buy over a 10-year period? Not many. Yet that's what President Obama is proposing to Republicans in his secret negotiations with John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, in a dispute over how to raise the federal deficit ceiling so the government has the authority to borrow what it needs to pay its bills.

Boehner, on the advice of his Republican caucus, has decided to limit the talks to $2 trillion or possibly $3 trillion. He insists that if the federal deficit is raised by $2 trillion, there ought to be an equivalent in spending cuts. He has been consistently opposed to tax increases.

To entice Republican support, the President has increased the amount of spending cuts to include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and popular social programs that help the poor, sick and elderly. But, in return for these concessions, Obama wants a trillion dollars for investment in education, infrastructure and other needed domestic programs.

The White House willingness to keep the three long-standing, major entitlements on the negotiating table has angered millions of working people and retirees, who depend on these programs for survival.

No one knows for certain about the list of spending cuts that Obama and Boehner have agreed to, but with $2 trillion, the cuts can wipe out or cripple a massive number of programs, And most of the "pain" will impact on the middle class and low-wage workers..

Spending Cuts Mean More Unemployment

It is worth noting that the focus of the Obama-Boehner talks is primarily on spending cuts. There is not a word about using the trillions of dollars to create jobs for the unemployed.

The Republicans feel they are in the driver's seat. By standing tough on the federal budget ceiling issue, they expect to get the best deal they want, not only in slashing government spending, but getting a tax code that will favor rich people and profitable corporations.

President Obama keeps offering inducements to Republicans in the hope that he can persuade them to accept his $4 trillion deal. So far, the more concessions he offers, the tougher is the Republican stance.

* * * * *

It is foolhardy for the AFL-CIO to stand on the sidelines and let Obama and Boehner make decisions that will affect the lives of millions of working people. We must not allow them to make arbitrary spending cuts without consultation and approval of our unions.

The AFL-CIO should take strong action to let Congress and the White House know that we are adamantly opposed to spending cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and that money will have to be found to keep these essential entitlements intact.

E-mail letters of protest are not the answer. Can our leaders propose and implement other direct actions to express our rage?

LaborTalk will be posted here on July 15, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

Powered by