Skip to main content

labor Obama, Social Security Cuts & The Labor Party

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget will call for reductions in the growth of Social Security and other benefit programs. The reductions in the growth of benefit programs, which would affect veterans, the poor and the older Americans, is sure to anger many Democrats. Labor groups and liberals have long been critical of Obama’s offer to Boehner for including such a plan.

printer friendly  
,

Obama, Social Security Cuts & The Labor Party

Obama to propose Social Security cuts

Labor Party Time? A Response from Chris Townsend

Obama to propose Social Security cuts

Jim Kuhnhenn

The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s proposed
budget will call for reductions in the growth of Social
Security and other benefit programs while still
insisting on more taxes from the wealthy in a renewed
attempt to strike a broad deficit-cutting deal with
Republicans, a senior administration official says.

The proposal aims for a compromise on the Fiscal 2014
budget by combining the president’s demand for higher
taxes with GOP insistence on reductions in entitlement
programs.

The official, who spoke on a condition of anonymity to
describe a budget that has yet to be released, said
Obama would reduce the federal government deficit by
$1.8 trillion over 10 years. The president’s budget,
the first of his second term, incorporates elements
from his last offer to House Speaker John Boehner in
December. Congressional Republicans rejected that
proposal because of its demand for more than a $1
trillion in tax revenue.

A key feature of the plan Obama now is submitting for
the federal budget year beginning Oct. 1 is a revised
inflation adjustment called ‘‘chained CPI.’’ This new
formula would effectively curb annual increases in a
broad swath of government programs, but would have its
biggest impact on Social Security. By encompassing
Obama’s offer to Boehner, R-Ohio, the plan will also
include reductions in Medicare spending, much of it by
targeting payments to health care providers and drug
companies.

Obama’s budget proposal also calls for additional tax
revenue, including a proposal to place limits on
tax-preferred retirement accounts for wealthy
taxpayers. Obama has also called for limits on tax
deductions by the wealthy, a proposal that could
generate about $580 billion in revenue over 10 years.

The inflation adjustment would reduce federal spending
over 10 years by about $130 billion, according to past
White House estimates. Because it also affects how tax
brackets are adjusted, it would also generate about
$100 billion in higher taxes and affect even middle
income taxpayers.

The reductions in the growth of benefit programs, which
would affect veterans, the poor and the older
Americans, is sure to anger many Democrats. Labor
groups and liberals have long been critical of Obama’s
offer to Boehner for including such a plan.

Administration officials have said Obama would only
agree to the reductions in benefit programs if they are
accompanied by increases in revenue, a difficult demand
given the strong anti-tax sentiment of House
Republicans.

That Obama would include such a plan in his budget is
hardly surprising. White House aides have said for
weeks that the president’s offer to Boehner in December
remained on the table. Not including it in the budget
would have constituted a remarkable retreat from his
bargaining position.

Obama’s budget, to be released next Wednesday, comes
after the Republican-controlled House and the
Democratic-run Senate passed separate and markedly
different budget proposals. House Republicans achieved
long-term deficit reductions by targeting safety net
programs; Democrats instead protected those programs
and called for $1 trillion in tax increases.

But Obama has been making a concerted effort to win
Republican support, especially in the Senate. He has
even scheduled a dinner with Republican lawmakers on
the evening that his budget is released next week.

House Republicans, however, have been adamant in their
opposition to increases in taxes, noting that Congress
already increased taxes on the wealthy in the first
days of January to avoid a so-called fiscal cliff, or
automatic, across the board tax increases and spending
cuts.

Congress and the administration have already secured
$2.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10
years through budget reductions and with the
end-of-year tax increase on the rich. Obama’s plan
would bring that total to $4.3 trillion over 10 years.

As described by the administration official, the budget
proposal would also end a loophole that permits people
to obtain unemployment insurance and disability
benefits at the same time.

Obama’s proposal, however, includes calls for increased
spending. It would make pre-school available to more
children by increasing the tax on tobacco.

Labor Party Time?

Response from Chris Townsend

The Labor Party

Response from Chris Townsend, Washington Representative
for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of
America (UE). He was a Labor Party trustee and the
Capitol Hill Shop Steward columnist for the Labor Party
News.

The work by Mark Dudzic and Katherine Isaac to sum up
the Labor Party effort is a fine  historical sketch and
a good start. The literature to date on this topic is
thin-to-nonexistent, and what does exist is largely
devoid of first-hand knowledge. They are both well
qualified to initiate the current review, as both
plowed years of their lives into the Labor Party
experiment.

What makes the reopening of the Labor Party discussion
so urgent today is that organized labor and working
people face an even more dire economic and political
situation than we confronted in the late 1980s and
early 1990s. The continuing lack of any significant
independence from the Democratic Party has delivered a
situation where labor no longer commands even the
minimal respect and recognition which was in evidence
just twenty years ago — when substantial national and
regional labor union forces moved to initiate the Labor
Party.

The current Democratic Administration and party
bureaucracy ignore labor with impunity, knowing full
well that we are stuck with no other immediate or
practical electoral options. They increasingly feel
free to attack organized labor in a selective way as
well. For so long as Republican Party forces tow the
corporate line and push for the outright extermination
of unions, Democrats have almost no political need to
provide support or assistance to the millions of
working people now subject to the employer attacks. But
regardless of their broken promises and disgraceful
inaction in the face of the ongoing crises facing
labor, a large majority of unions once again rush to
shower Democrats with money and support without
conditions. Those few elected Democrats who do perform
above this low average are largely silent, providing
but scant support to the few and scattered forces who
still push for a reinvigoration of the
impossible-to-capture Democratic “Party.”

The worn-out deal between organized labor, working
people, and the Democratic Party has run its course so
far as its ability to deliver positive outcomes. The
era of political and economic progress through this
arrangement is clearly at its end, and the only force
on the scene which seems to be unaware of this are the
political decision-makers within many of the unions.

So compelling is the case for the exercise of political
independence by the labor movement today that — in my
opinion — the burden has now shifted onto the defenders
of the old set-up to come forward with some workable
strategy to address the current political fiasco. Where
are those within labor who denounced, blocked, or
deflected the construction of the Labor Party? Where
are the leaders who promised a more responsive
Democratic Party if labor would merely offer just a few
more votes and dollars? Ask for a show of hands. You
may not see any even if you do. Brave is the labor
leader today who will defend the indefensible failure
of most Democrats. The bankruptcy of the assertion that
the Democratic Party is still some sort of vehicle for
labor to once again regain forward momentum is
tragically laughable on its face. And as tempting as it
is to want to breath new life into that proposition, it
is not going to happen. For every ounce of energy
expended by labor to construct an independent political
party of its own, ten thousand times as much has been
squandered over the decades on fruitless schemes to
“influence” or “capture” the Democratic Party.

As an active union member and staff member in our labor
movement since the late 1970s, — and having been part
of the Labor Party experiment from its beginning to its
end — I commend the current article to all in labor who
are searching for the roots of our current political
crisis. This conversation is necessary for a number of
reasons, and particularly as a means to help the new
generation of labor leaders and activists realize that
this situation is not new — and it is not a permanent
condition, either. It won’t do any harm to remind the
veteran union leaders and workhorses that this
unavoidable question of labor’s political independence
is still yet to be answered as well.

As the bombardment falls all around us today in the
labor trench it is difficult to tell exactly which way
is forward. We are all taking casualties, and supplies
are running low. Few Democrats are coming to our
rescue, and Republicans and their big business shock
troops are moving to encircle and annihilate our
movement. Only one outcome is certain; for organized
labor to remain glued to the profoundly rigged and
corrupt two-party trap is to condemn our movement to
total destruction. We must find a way forward, out of
this trap. The political order of the day must be
“breakout.” As we were reminded in Ohio and Wisconsin
and elsewhere, vast numbers of working people far
beyond the immediate ranks of the unions are with us.
Proof that a “breakout” may readily be converted into a
“breakthrough.”