LaborTalk for January 13, 2012

Will Trillion Dollars Be Spent to Reduce U.S. Debt
Or Create Jobs and Save Key Domestic Services?
Why Are AFL-CIO Leaders Silent When So Much Is at Stake?

By Harry Kelber

Negotiations will resume during this election year between President Obama and the Republican leadership on how to spend a trillion dollars authorized by Congress. The two major political parties have not changed their views since last year, when their heated conflict threatened to close down the government.

Republicans blame the President for increasing the federal deficit, while Democrats point out that Obama inherited a $10.6 trillion public debt from his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) chairman of the House Budget Committee, said: "This debt is hurting not only our economy today, but will result in our children and grandchildren experiencing a diminished future."

President Obama says he has a debt plan that would reduce government spending while bringing in more government revenue by raising taxes on the wealthiest citizens. He has also criticized Republicans for opposing tax hikes on corporation.

Obama added: "Now I believe that since I already signed a trillion dollars' worth of spending cuts and have proposed to make even more, it's time to reduce the deficit, not just by cutting but also by asking the wealthiest of the most fortunate of us to do a little more than pay their fair share."

We Should Have a Voice in the Trillion-Dollar Talks About Us

Since the superCongress committee failed to resolve where, and how, to cut the authorized trillion dollars, the dispute will once again be negotiated by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. The major targets for budget cuts will be the Pentagon and Medicare. Top military leaders and officials at the White House are demanding that no cuts be made in the U.S. military, especially at a time when the country is still involved in two wars and is facing an increase in tensions in Iran. That leaves Medicare and other domestic programs to bear the brunt of the budget cuts.

Meanwhile, labor leaders are sitting on the sidelines, with no accurate knowledge of what financial operations at the national level are taking place that will affect the lives of working people. Isn't it clear that a trillion dollars of required budget cuts will eliminate or cripple hundreds of programs that help the unemployed, the retired, the homeless, the poor, the sick and the disabled?

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The AFL-CIO and Change to Win should demand that there be complete transparency in the negotiations over the trillion-dollar budget cuts. Unions should demand that organized labor be invited to the negotiating table as an "interested third party" and keep union members informed about decisions.

And let's raise a central question: With so many millions of people unemployed, is this the right time to cut the federal deficit and increase the number of jobless?

LaborTalk will be posted here on January 17, 2012 and on our two web sites www.laboreducator.org and on www.laborsvoiceforchange.org.

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