The president of the nation’s largest labor union blasted Republican plans to curb spending on Medicare and Social Security to reduce the federal deficit, saying it’s more important to create jobs and improve programs that already exist.
“One of the biggest expenditures is health care, in Medicare and Medicaid,” Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, told reporters after a luncheon at the National Press Club Friday. “But [Republicans] did away with the public option. They won’t even entertain it. They prohibited the federal government from using its buying power to push down the prices of drugs. That’s totally inconsistent with someone who says I want to get my fiscal house in order.”
Trumka also fired warning shots at congressional Democrats who aren’t on board with labor’s agenda, suggesting the AFL-CIO could withdraw support in the 2012 elections. “We will spend the summer holding elected leaders in Congress as well as the states accountable on one measure: Are they improving or degrading life for working families?” Trumka added that the AFL-CIO will fight strenuously against any candidate who proposes cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
The plan proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s, R-Wisc., would restructure Medicare so the next generation of seniors would receive subsidies to buy private health insurance--replacing the current government-run program. Medicaid for the poor and disabled would no longer be a federal-state program but a block grant to states – a move that would allow state governments to make changes in the program.
Trumka called Republican budget proposals a message that “sacrifice is for the weak”. “The federal budget proposal embraced by House Republicans cuts $4.3 trillion in spending, but gives out $4.2 trillion in tax cuts that disproportionately benefit wealthy individuals and corporations,” he said.
The federal government on Monday reached its $14.3 trillion legal limit on borrowing, which forced the Treasury to step up implementation of a series of financial and bookkeeping maneuvers to gain time before facing the real prospects of the first U.S. debt default in history. Republicans have insisted on linking a debt ceiling vote to agreement on major cuts in government spending, including Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements.
The AFL-CIO traditionally has strongly supported Democrats, spending more than $50 million on Democratic candidates in the 2010 mid-term elections, according to the Associated Press. Trumka said the AFL-CIO is open to supporting third party candidates and would show greater independence in the upcoming election. Such a move could be damaging to Democratic candidates who have heavily relied on labor’s financial support.
“It doesn’t matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside—the outcome is the same either way,” he said. “If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families’ interests, working people will not support them.”
AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka Denounces Republicans and Warns Democrats (New York Times)
Union Chief Richard Trumka Fires Warning Shot on 2012 Campaign (ABC News)
Trumka’s Message to Democrats: The Money Is Not in the Bank Yet (TIME)