LaborTalk for July 15, 2011

Why Isn't the AFL-CIO Involved
In Talks About Spending Cuts?

By Harry Kelber

While President Obama and John Boehner, the Republican's chief negotiator, are engaged in secret talks about the size and content of a budget deficit deal, there is no evidence that AFL-CIO leaders are showing any public interest in the massive spending cuts that will be part of an agreement to raise the federal debt limit so that the government will have the funds to meet its financial obligations.

The AFL-CIO has neither approved nor criticized Obama's proposal for a $4 trillion deal that would cut future spending on Medicare by as much as hundreds of billions of dollars over a 12-year period. The Republicans want to transform Medicare into a voucher system that would mean a reduction in benefits for retirees.

Boehner, who is Speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, says he is ready to go for a $2 trillion deal, but he insists that whatever funds are given to raise the federal debt limit, should be matched by an equal amount in spending cuts.

Obama wants an increase in taxes, especially for the wealthy, and the elimination of tax breaks for the oil companies, agribusiness and hedge funds, as well as the expiration of the Bush tax cuts to millionaires. He wants to invest the money in education, infrastructure and other urgent domestic needs. The Republicans are unalterably opposed to tax increases

On Social Security, Obama has agreed to spending cuts, using a different method of calculating benefits, based on the rate of inflation, including a reduction of the annual cost-of-living benefits to retired people. The Republicans have come up with a plan based on the Consumer Price Index, that they say could reduce federal spending on retiree benefits by $110 billion over 10 years.

Why Are Our Leaders Not Fighting Spending Cuts?

Only two weeks remain before the August 2 deadline to reach an agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling and prevent a national financial catastrophe, Democrats and Republicans still haven't settled the issue, but are engaged in a sparring match, with an eye on the 2012 elections.

We are told that Vice-President Joe Biden has agreed to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts, making a deal without our knowledge or approval. Why hasn't the AFL-CIO insisted on being part of the negotiating process, since the spending cuts will probably impact mainly on the middle class and the working poor?

The debate over raising the federal deficit ceiling is a secondary issue. It's been done dozens of times without causing a national crisis. It's really an attack on the living standards of working people and their unions. Can't our leaders see that?

* * * * *

Let's make our position clear to Congress and the White House. We're going to raise hell on any squeeze on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. These three entitlements have for decades helped working people and retirees to survive. Money will have to be found to keep them intact. The government bailed out the big banks and huge corporations. It can do no less for the three entitlements.

The AFL-CIO should resolve to examine the proposed spending cuts and to fight against any that it considers unfair or unnecessary.

LaborTalk will be posted here on July 19, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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