Dear Sisters and Brothers:
Working people in the U.S. are rapidly approaching a crossroads. A campaign is underway, backed by Wall Street and corporate interests, to reduce the federal deficit on the backs of working people. An AFL-CIO blog reported that Obama’s Fiscal Commission, which he created to generate deficit-reducing proposals, is above all eyeing Social Security and Medicare with the idea of cutting benefits to both. Obama announced to the Commission that “everything is on the table,” thereby leaving the door wide open to attacks on these popular government programs. And the fact that Peter Orszag, Obama’s Office of Management and Budget director, “believes that Social Security benefits should be cut back” strikes an ominous chord.
Making matters worse, according to another AFL-CIO blog, “Conservative groups and Wall Street insiders, says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), are spending more than $1 billion dollars to convince the public that slashing these programs [Social Security and Medicare] is the only way to protect our children and grandchildren from poverty.”
With plenty of money at their disposal, these corporate and Wall Street barons are organizing town hall meetings across the nation in order to promote their anti-Social Security and Medicare campaign. And their slick website, America Speaks, offers a wealth of information — all from the narrow perspective of the rich who are clinging to their money.
In other words, in an amazing act of arrogance, Wall Street, after bringing the economy to its knees with reckless speculation and gambling, now wants the rest of us to pay for the ballooning deficit that was in part created by taxpayers bailouts for them, which in turn have allowed them to return to business as usual with high living and super bonuses. And they are tenaciously fighting to hold on to the deficit-gouging tax cuts they won during the Bush regime with the support of Democrats. Rather than sacrificing one of their many yachts or mansions, they want to take away or reduce the modest lifeline that social Security and Medicare provide to working people. For Wall Street, it is a matter of principle: they can never have too much.
But while Wall Street’s self-serving solution to the deficit conveniently supports their rapacious greed, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has presented a different analysis of the cause of the deficit and offered a counter solution that reflects the needs of working people: “According to the data from the Congressional Budget Office, most of the deficit over the next ten years results from Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, spiraling health care costs and the worst recession since the Great Depression. The main driver of the recent increases in deficit projections is worsening economic conditions — in short, the present deficit crisis is largely a symptom of the jobs crisis.”
He has called on the government to create 10 million jobs through a massive public works program to be paid for by taxing Wall Street so that not a single penny would be added to the deficit.
While Wall Street speculators are riding high, the suffering of working people seems unending. In a recent poll, 38 percent of Americans said that they or someone close to them had lost a job, 43 percent reported that their wages had fallen, and 27 percent lost health care coverage. Knowing that these grim statistics are a direct result of Wall Street speculators, people’s outrage at them has taken on the semblance of a gathering storm and is rivaled only by their distrust of government.
Programs such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right to unionize, and welfare benefits were created as a direct response to the demands of workers, who engaged in massive demonstrations during the 1930s in their fight for a better life.
We believe that if working people are given the opportunity to choose between Trumka’s jobs-creation proposal and Wall Street’s proposal to cut Social Security and Medicare, they will overwhelmingly opt for Trumka’s. But a free and informed choice requires that people understand both sides of the debate so that they are not simply railroaded by Wall Street’s billion-dollar propaganda machine.
For this reason, we propose that the AFL-CIO organize competing town hall meetings across the country where President Richard Trumka would be the featured speaker and could explain the rationale underlying his alternative. Local Labor Councils and State Labor Federations could join with Jobs with Justice and reach out to community organizations and together organize local meetings that would be well advertised in the media. In this way, organized labor would take up Wall Street’s challenge, rise to the occasion, and mount a defense of workers. Once people have all the relevant information in hand, Wall Street’s alternative will suffer a crushing defeat since it will become crystal clear that it would serve only the interests of Wall Street at the expense of almost everyone else.
The anger of working people is rising. As an AFL-CIO blog entitled “Economy and Jobs at Heart of Working-Class Anger” explained, “Working people are mad about an economy that’s punished them with vanishing jobs and lost homes and rewarded Wall Street with bailouts and bonuses while they see a government that doesn’t seem capable of fixing what’s gone wrong or holding anyone accountable.” (June 3, 2010).
These labor town hall meetings could channel this anger into a nationwide campaign that would fight for the needs of those of us who work for a living. Inequalities in wealth have been spiraling out of control in the U.S. during the past four decades, placing the economy on the brink of disaster. Given that consumption constitutes 70 percent of the economy, if working people’s income continues to drop, then the economy will degenerate even further when the majority of the population cannot afford to purchase what it needs.
Wall Street and corporate America have launched an attack against working people. Only organized labor, by educating and mobilizing its ranks and its allies, can put a halt to this campaign. It is time to rise up, take a stand, say enough is enough, and demand:
NO CUTS TO SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE! JOBS FOR ALL!
TAX THE RICH!
Bill Leumer and Alan Benjamin
Co-conveners, Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign
MODEL CAMPAIGN RESOLUTION
[Note: Please find below a model resolution to be submitted to your union or organization to promote this labor nationwide town-hall meetings campaign.]
Model Resolution on AFL-CIO Nationwide Town Hall Meetings Featuring Brother Trumka Addressing Deficit Reduction Proposals
Whereas, it has been reported that President Obama’s Fiscal Commission is strongly considering cutting benefits to Social Security and Medicare;
And whereas it has been reported that “Conservative groups and Wall Street insiders are spending more than $1 billion to convince the public that slashing these programs [Social Security and Medicare] is the only way to protect our children and grandchildren from poverty;”
And whereas it has been reported that these conservative and Wall Street groups have been organizing town hall meetings across the nation to promote their point of view;
And whereas AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has offered a counter analysis to the budget deficit by stating, “According to the data from the Congressional Budget Office, most of the deficit over the next ten years results from Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, spiraling health care costs and the worst recession since the Great Depression,” and added that, “The Main driver of the recent increases in deficit projections is worsening economic conditions – in short, the present deficit crisis is largely a symptom of the jobs crisis;”
And whereas President Trumka has called on the government to create 10 million jobs through a massive public works program to be paid for by taxing Wall Street as the most effective way to reduce the deficit;
And whereas only organized labor has the resources to successfully combat the campaign of the conservative and Wall Street groups;
Therefore be it resolved that the [insert name of your union or organization here] call on the AFL-CIO, in conjunction with state federations and local labor councils and community groups, to organize town hall meetings across the nation with President Richard Trumka as the featured speaker to present labor’s analysis of the cause of the deficit and to promote labor’s job-creation proposal as the solution to the deficit problem.