Union leaders pan House GOP’s budget blueprint

WASHINGTON–As might be expected, national union leaders — joined by at least one top House Democrat — panned the budget blueprint that Republicans unveiled on July 19.

The spending plan from Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., calls for a $203 billion cut in Medicare and Medicaid for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

It does so by including the House GOP-passed so-called health care bill in its text, by converting Medicare into a “premium support” grant — GOP language for limited vouchers to elderly individuals — and by letting states “tailor,” i.e. cut, Medicaid for the poor and for kids.

Black claimed the Medicare vouchers would “give seniors more control of their health care. This lowers costs for beneficiaries and the government through increased competition while also maintaining the option for traditional Medicare.”

The vouchers also leave seniors at the mercy of insurers, but Black did not say so.

The GOP budget plan also cuts domestic programs while increasing defense. Much of the domestic cut would come from federal workers, Government Employees (AFGE) Presi-dent J. David Cox and Treasury Employees (NTEU) President Tony Reardon pointed out.

And the panel wants to stick the U.S. Postal Service back into the regular budget, for the first time since 1989. That could expose it to congressional capriciousness, overall cuts and its slashes at federal workers, Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando warned.

That could produce “crippling service cuts and perhaps even threaten our jobs,” he said.

All that makes it “the worst budget I’ve seen in 36 years” in Congress, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told a Capitol Hill rally against the GOP spending blueprint.

The House budget blueprint is important for two reasons, if the GOP-run Congress’ leaders can jam it through, though that’s uncertain. One is that it reveals the party’s real priorities, as opposed to often-gauzy Republican rhetoric. The other is that without a budget,

Congress can’t enact a special fast-track “reconciliation” bill — avoiding a Senate Democratic filibuster — by straight party-line votes.

Reconciliation can be used for huge tax cuts for the rich, or as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., unsuccessfully tried, to kill the Affordable Care Act, or both.

AFGE President Cox noted Black’s budget blueprint would cut pay and retirement benefits for federal workers by $32 billion in the year starting Oct. 1, on top of $182 billion in similar cuts in past years. The new cut, he said, is “a down payment on (GOP) President Trump’s proposal to cut $149 billion from employees’ pay and benefits over the next 10 years.”

“Slashing the pay and benefits of America’s civil servants while lining the pockets of the wealthiest of the wealthy is a shameful way to govern the country and is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with this horrible budget,” Cox said.

“While many private-sector companies are increasing retirement benefits for their workers, this budget goes in the opposite direction. It would make it much harder for federal agencies to recruit and retain the quality employees they need to deliver the programs and services that American taxpayers deserve.”

Other unions took their case to Congress at that July 19 rally, featuring Hoyer, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten and AFSCME President Lee Saunders.

Weingarten hit the budget blueprint’s education cuts. And in a statement, School Administrators President Diann Woodard noted the blueprint kills federal funding for school teacher and administrator training. In statements, Cox and Reardon said the budget would cut federal workers’ pay by 6 percent. Trumka, noting all the teachers in the crowd, offered a budget “lesson plan” to lawmakers.

“Lesson 1: Kicking people off insurance and cutting taxes for rich people is not a health care plan. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from workers to Wall Street and we oppose it in any form!

Lesson 2: Great countries don’t cut billions of dollars from public education. Remember, a budget is more than a set of numbers. It’s a statement of our values. So what does it say when we treat our teachers and students as a line item? America deserves better!

“Lesson 3: When you bring policies forward that give workers more freedom to provide for our families, we’ll help you pass them with the same strength and intensity we are using to stop this health care sham! We don’t want to be playing defense. Give us something to fight for!

“And that brings me to our final lesson: If you continue down the path of trickle down, of health care for the few, of union-busting and school vouchers, of corporate handouts and a race to the bottom, we will remember in November” of 2018.

NTEU’s Reardon called the GOP plan “a hodgepodge of bad policy, harmful spending cuts and rollbacks of protections for consumers and taxpayers.” Austerity, “masquerading as deficit reduction, would inflict untold economic damage by privatizing Medicare, eliminating vital government services to citizens most in need, and forcing middle-class Americans to pay for tax cuts for millionaires.”  He urged solons to pass a budget to restore past spending cuts.

Saunders said the House budget is like McConnell’s health care bill: “A direct attack on the freedom and security of working families.” And it shares GOP President Donald Trump’s “same warped priorities…And they’re going after health care again, with staggering cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other programs totaling nearly $2 trillion over the next decade.

“These cuts will impact state and local budgets, jeopardizing services AFSCME members provide – in-home health care, law enforcement, education and much more.”

Source: PAI