AFL-CIO Outlines a Debt Reduction Plan that Would Actually Work

AFL-CIO Headquarters
AFL-CIO Headquarters by samirluther

Here we are in mid-September with 10 weeks of the “Super-committee” drama ahead of us. We’ll be waiting to see the posturing, the demands, the breath holding, the capitulations and, most likely, the intransigence of the Republicans forcing this whole exercise into failure.

The really sad part is that there is a plan out there which would actually reduce the debt by more than the 1.2 trillion this committee is charged with. That plan was laid out by the AFL-CIO and it does not require cuts to Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid.

The Hill is reporting that the venerable union has sent around a plan that outlines where trillions in deficit reduction savings could be found. If the real goal, as both Republicans and Democrats claim, is to reduce our national debt and get our people working then these are the ideas that should be discussed before we talk about cutting Social Security (which does nothing to add to our debt) or military retirement benefits.

The proposals run the gamut and they are pretty much what you would expect from a Labor Union; establish the public option as way to control costs for health care by competition with a plan that does not put profit first. Allow Medicaid to negotiate drug costs with pharmaceutical companies (why the hell we have not done this yet is a national shame) and allow the re-importation of prescription drugs from other countries. The AFL-CIO estimates that these three measures would save a total of $299 billion over the next ten years. As they say, that ain’t hay.

But that is not all the plan suggests. There are tax revenue ideas that make sense and are perfectly compatible with economic growth. The plan includes a changing the tax code so that capital gains are taxed at a rate just like income, a millionaires surtax, and the big Kahuna a small financial transaction tax on all trades on our stock markets. These measures are estimated by the union to provide, $168 billion, $400 billion and a $1 trillion dollars respectively over the next decade. That is more than the “Super-committee” is looking for in one fell swoop!

There is also a strong urging to end our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ASAP and that savings comes in at $1.2 trillion (an estimate they cribbed from Rep. Paul Ryans “Throw Momma from the Train” budget). But they are not just looking at saving money.

The AFL-CIO is very interested in workers and seeing them on the job. They are urging the passage of the Presidents American Jobs Act in its entirety. This would cost some money and redirect some of the money they lay out in their debt reduction plan, but given that the union has laid out over $3 trillion in obvious and helpful savings, the re-investment of $450 billion to get the economy on a more steady footing is more than reasonable.

See, this is not that hard. The tragic thing is that almost none of these plans are likely to be adopted. Republicans are already squawking about the “Buffet Rule” President Obama is going to official role out this morning.

They are claiming it is class warfare. One man’s class warfare is another’s leveling the playing field. When we are talking about continuing to cut programs that help the vast majority of the nation to protect a miniscule fraction of the minority, who happen to hold a majority of the wealth, I think a little class warfare is in order.

What I think Republicans miss is that calling it class warfare is good politics, but it also puts the idea of ‘warfare’ in peoples heads. I talk a lot about things that kill democracies, one of them is massive income inequity. When the money of a nation is all skewed to the top and a very small absolute number, that is a de facto aristocracy. The thing is history is replete with examples of what happens when the peasantry decides that they don’t like the aristocrats any more. The guillotine was invented in just such a spasm and just because we have progressed since then does not mean that the anger of a poor populace at the rich has gone away.

I am happy to see the President standing up to say he will veto any bill that protects the rich while cutting Medicare and Medicaid. But it is time for him to do more. Our debt is a problem, but the solutions that are being proposed are not the ones that address how we got to this problem.

Lest anyone forget, the major drivers of our debt and deficit are the Bush era tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Medicare Part D coverage. None of those were offset by cuts or taxes at the time they were brought into existence and it is they, not our long standing entitlement plans that are digging us in deeper every year.

If anyone is Washington is actually serious about reducing our deficit and debt then we should be looking at what actually caused us to go from surpluses to “deficits as far as the eye can see”. A very good first step would be for the “Super-committee” to do something super and take up the AFL-CIO’s ideas.

The floor is yours.

(Oh and for everyone to get a pony. When you are wishing for things that aren’t going to happen you should always wish for a pony for everyone.)

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