LaborTalk for August 2, 2011

The New Debt Plan: Forget About New Jobs;
For Workers, $2.4 Trillion in Spending Cuts
Bi-partisan Deal Puts Financial Burden on Working People

By Harry Kelber

After going through a charade for six months on how to raise the ceiling on the national debt, President Obama and John Boehner got the main things they both wanted: spending cuts of $2.4 trillion — with more cuts to come later on through a bipartisan, congressional commission.

Here was a $4-trillion dollar deal without a single public hearing. The two men negotiated mostly in secret, with the public not being told where those trillion-dollar spending cuts would be made.

All the blabber about jobs, jobs, jobs. There won't be any jobs for the millions of unemployed. There's no money for public works jobs. Because the new focus in Washington is on spending cuts, more people will be laid off from programs that will be eliminated or reduced.

The budget deal doesn't ask for a penny from the Wall Street banks and financial investors, who have at least $2 trillion in cash and should pay to avoid the enormous spending cuts. Since the government bailed them out in their hour of need, why can't Wall Street bail out the government, especially since they were mainly responsible for the economic crisis?

The deal raising the federal debt limit doesn't have any provisions for increasing the government's revenue. So who is going to pay for lifting the debt ceiling? And who is going to pay for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya? Not the banks and wealthy corporations? No, it will be the usual victims, working people, whose wages have been stagnating and who are struggling to meet the rising cost of food, housing, fuel and other necessities.

You can be sure that the Republican-Democratic deal includes plans to put Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on the chopping block, when the 12-member congressional committee continues its mission to slash spending programs

President Obama has announced he favors cutting the cost-of-living payments to retirees and increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67. And he has shown that he is willing to "compromise" by yielding to Republican demands.

The Most Effective Way for Workers to Fight Back

Unions have been subject to more many-sided attacks than at any time in living memory. So how should the AFL-CIO and Change-to-Win leaders and members respond? Our leaders said we should send e-mails of protest to our lawmakers in Washington. We sent more than a million e-mails. Nothing happened. They didn't even reply.

We participated in rallies, marches and candlelight vigils, where our leaders made militant speeches. But Congress and the White House weren't listening. The more radical of us tried picketing their lawmakers or conducting sit-ins in their offices, but that only made them angry, not helpful.

For most union members, the only option seemed to be to suffer the attacks on their wages and benefits in silence, because unions were making major concessions to avoid layoffs

* * * * *

But there is a course of action that can command attention and produce positive results. Here it is:

On a certain day, millions of union members will not report for work. The usually busy economy will come to a standstill. If the extremist right wants to shrivel the size of government, we'll show them what it would look like.

On that date, truckers won't deliver supplies; sales staff won't show up in food stores, bakers won't bake bread or pastry, steel workers, plumbers, electricians and subway workers won't be seen. Major newspapers won't be published.

All the goods and services that people normally expect won't be available. They'll begin to understand the worth of even unskilled workers in our economy and, hopefully, treat them with the respect they deserve.

It is a fact that workers and their unions are no longer treated with the respect they enjoyed even during the Great Depression. Their strength has been declining steadily in the past three or four decades, largely because of inaction.

We need some dramatic national action to recapture the influence that the labor movement once had. What better way than a national "Day of Collective Power and Pride."

Would you take a day off from work to join in this campaign?

LaborTalk will be posted here on August 5, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

Powered by