By Glynn Wilson –
The American people spoke on election day 2012.
The question remains, however: Did Congress hear? Will the far right tea party Republicans in the House heed the people’s call to compromise with the president and the Senate on taxes and revenue?
“Republicans are ‘willing to accept new revenue’ to tame the soaring national debt and avert an ugly battle over the approaching ‘fiscal cliff,’” House Speaker John A. Boehner said Wednesday in a speech that offered a potential path to compromise in year-end budget negotiations in the lame duck Congress.
With President Obama reelected and Republicans returned to a slightly smaller majority in the House, the Ohio Republican said Tuesday’s election amounted to a plea from voters for the parties to lay down their weapons of the past two years and “do what’s best for our country.”
“That is the will of the people, and we answer to them,” Boehner said. “For purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we’re willing to accept new revenue — under the right conditions.”
Boehner repeated his opposition to raising revenue by increasing tax rates, however, suggesting that he would consider altering the tax code instead.
It remains to be seen if other conservative members of Congress will go along, including Eric Cantor of Virginia, Tom Price of Georgia and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Emboldened by their role in the reelection of President Obama and Democrats retaining control of the Senate and gaining seats in the House, American unions are mobilizing their memberships to keep the pressure on Congress to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts in the lame duck session.
“Working families need more economic security, not less. But some legislators and their friends on Wall Street are set on reaching a ‘grand bargain’ during the post-election ‘lame-duck’ session of Congress that would cut the benefits that we and our children will depend on,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a national statement. “They want to cut our Social Security COLAs, raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare and cut Medicaid, which could force families into bankruptcy when a loved one needs long-term care.”
“Why?” he asked. “They say it’s to reduce the deficit, but that’s obviously not true. If they were serious about reducing the deficit, they would not be insisting on extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans.”
America’s labor movement is unified in recommending what Congress should do: Let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans and pass no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
“We need to send a clear message why we must protect the promise of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Trumka said.
As members of Congress are headed back to Washington after the election for a few final weeks of business, any grand compromise on taxes and revenue “could have a devastating impact on the future of working families,” said Al Henley, President of the Alabama AFL-CIO. “There’s a very real danger that cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other programs Americans rely on will be on the table. Those cuts would affect all of us — the very people who elected President Obama, Vice President Biden and other working family candidates.”
The unions are convinced that the Republicans in Congress want to cut Social Security benefits, raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare and cut Medicaid, “forcing families into bankruptcy when a loved one needs long-term care.”
Politicians in Washington, D.C. are going to start talking about extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent and turning the focus back to the deficit again, Henley said.
“We have to stand up for working families and tell Congress million dollar tax breaks for the richest 2 percent of Americans are unacceptable during budget deficits,” he said, encouraging people to call their representatives and let them hear this message. “Alabamians need to take a stand and tell our representatives to put working families first.”
The public is invited to sign a petition to support the labor and working family position, and to call your members of Congress now at 888-659-9401.
© 2012, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.