Other Views: Working families can’t afford another shutdown-style crisis

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Richard Trumka & Phil Neuenfeldt
Saturday, November 23, 2013

Last month, we saw Washington at its worst. Republican leaders including Rep. Paul Ryan, driven by the tea party, recklessly shut down our government and brought our nation to the brink of default.

The shutdown cost 120,000 jobs in the first two weeks of October and will reduce economic growth by at least 0.25 percent in the fourth quarter. Here in Wisconsin, it directly impacted 13,455 federal workers.

Now it’s on to the next fight in Washington, and it is worth noting that a congressional budget is a blueprint that outlines our priorities as a nation. A good budget invests in America. It doesn’t rob our government of the resources it needs to succeed and promotes the creation of well-paying jobs. It isn’t balanced on the backs of working families and seniors.

As Democrats and Republicans spend this month negotiating how to avoid another government shutdown, it is important to remind Washington politicians about these priorities.

The recovery is still being dragged down by the repeated budget crises manufactured by Republicans in Congress. Budget austerity in the tea party Congress has already slowed annual economic growth by 0.7 percent, cost 1.2 million jobs, and increased the unemployment rate by 0.8 percent, according to Macroeconomic Advisers.

Congress should repeal the sequester it created, not replace it. Repealing the sequester would generate 800,000 jobs by this time next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Most important, policymakers must reject proposals to cut Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare benefits. Instead of terrifying our parents and grandparents with threats to cut benefits they’ve earned, politicians should protect these vital programs, which have shielded the elderly and vulnerable from poverty for generations. Working people need more economic security, not less.

Congress should look to raise new revenue by repealing the tax subsidies that encourage corporations to send jobs overseas and ending special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. When the average CEO’s salary for the first morning on the job is the same amount the average worker makes in a year, it’s clear that the wealthiest Americans and corporations making record profits can pay their fair share.

Ending these undeserved and wasteful tax breaks would allow us to invest in our workforce and create the well-paying jobs millions so desperately need. By rebuilding our infrastructure, education and manufacturing base, we can create good jobs with good benefits and provide relief to our struggling working and middle class.

In addition, Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform so 11 million aspiring Americans are no longer second-class citizens and the rights of all workers are protected. Allowing hard-working immigrants to contribute to our communities would increase our economic growth and create jobs.

Rep. Ryan: Instead of shutting down progress, please listen to the needs of the hardworking voters who sent you to Washington.

Richard Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO; Phil Neuenfeldt is president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. Readers can follow Trumka on Twitter @RichardTrumka. Reach Neuenfeldt at solidarity@wisaflcio.org or call the state AFL-CIO office at 414-771-0700.

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