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November 20, 2012

Union Coalition Promotes “Jobs Not Cuts,” Directly Targets Democratic Senators

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A coalition of unions has released the first set of ads pressuring Democrats on the grand bargain, with an explicit message of “Jobs Not Cuts.” The ads target some Republicans as well Democratic lawmakers in several states who have made noises in favor of a grand bargain that would cut social insurance programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education programs.

The coalition, which is spending upwards of six figures on the ads, is made up of AFSCME, the National Education Association, and SEIU. The targets in the TV ads include Senators in Colorado, Missouri and Virginia – which includes Democrats Mark Udall, Michael Bennet, Claire McCaskill, Jim Webb and Mark Warner. The House-specific ads are radio spots, and the targets there are all Republicans – Jo Ann Emerson in Missouri, Mike Fitzpatrick and Patrick Meehan in the Philadelphia suburbs, and Don Young in Alaska.

Obviously, the days right after an election are among the worst times to exert pressure on lawmakers. But you can see this more as a signal, identifying those in the Democratic coalition most disposed to backing social insurance cuts, and pointing out that this union coalition fully plans to make them pay a price for such activities. It shows that the unions plan to keep up their outside game, though I’m sure this isn’t exactly what President Obama had in mind when he sought help on the fiscal slope negotiations. It shows that unions, for now, plan to keep an independent voice, focused on the core issue of the need for a growth strategy rather than an austerity strategy for the US in the coming years.

The tax issue has taken prevalence so far in the media, but eventually, the fiscal slope will turn to social insurance programs, and there, Democrats are divided over what they will abide:

The party is split between those who would agree to major adjustments, including increasing premiums for wealthier beneficiaries and raising Medicare’s eligibility age, and those who rule out such moves altogether. In the middle is a group that would tolerate some cuts as long as they didn’t hit beneficiaries directly [...]

The talks have just begun, and Democrats’ ultimate position on Medicare—the federal health plan for the elderly—and Medicaid—the health system for low-income people—likely will hinge on the size of any deal and what revenue increases Republicans agree to.

Obviously, this union coalition is on the “rule out” side of the divide. And they’re not afraid at this point to let those in the Democratic coalition playing footsie with cuts know that they will face a reckoning.


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