As the smoke  clears on the implementation of the across-the-board cuts in vitally needed  domestic programs, it must be acknowledged that the labor movement and our  allies, together with the overwhelming majority of the population, have suffered  yet another devastating blow, this one administered by politicians of both major  parties, as well as by the president himself. It is estimated that as a result  of the cuts, over 700,000 workers will lose their jobs by the end of this  year.

The cuts,  known as sequestration, were authorized by the Budget Control Act of 2011,  enacted by large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans and signed into  law by the president, who was the first to advocate sequestration. Nothing that  has happened since and nothing that has been said since can change that basic  truth.

[see also Remember: Sequestration was Obama’s Idea Black Agenda Report]

The Obama  administration admits its miscalculation. They thought that by linking cuts in  social programs to cuts in military spending, the Republicans would come around  and agree to revenue increases. But it did not work out that way. The military  hawks in the Republican Party were outnumbered by the Tea Party-backed fiscal  hawks, and the Party refused to budge or rescind sequestration. No surprise  there.

[see also: The austerity vs. austerity debate Socialist Worker]

Yes, the  Republicans bear significant responsibility for what has occurred. They are the  outspoken champions of the wealthy, Wall Street banks, and the big corporations.  And the Republican Party is clearly controlled these days by the most extreme  right wing forces, which has resulted in the Party’s approval ratings sinking to  29 percentile.

But as we go  forward and face the danger of more massive cuts to the social safety net, it is  essential that a broad, powerful, inclusive mass movement be built that is independent of the Democratic Party,  which has proved itself once again to be no friend of labor, the unorganized,  the unemployed, low and middle-income workers, communities of color, and other  progressive sectors of our society.

Look at the  recent record. On January 29, 2010, President Obama addressed the House  Republican retreat and said that “the major drive of our long-term liabilities,  everybody here knows, is Medicare and Medicaid and … health care spending.  Nothing comes close.” In the summer of 2011, while attempting to negotiate a  “Grand Bargain” with Speaker Boehner, the president offered to support raising  the eligibility age for Medicare and also to change the cost of living formula  for Social Security, which would drive down monthly payments to seniors. The  three leading Democrats in the House of Representatives — Nancy Pelosi, Stenny  Hoyer and James Clyburn — all weighed in on the need to cut earned income  benefits (“entitlements”). In August of 2011 the Democrats and Republicans  collaborated in enacting the Budget Control Act, which included the  sequestration feature. This bill provided for establishing a “Super Committee”  of 12 — six Democrats and six Republicans — and charged them with coming up  with a plan to cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. All six Democrats on that committee made  clear they were for cutting “entitlements” so long as there were  corresponding increases in revenue.

The failure  of the Super Committee to reach agreement led to the sequestration, which is  what we have arrived at now. And every  member of Congress who voted for the Budget Control Act that led to this  juncture ought to be held accountable.

Looking  Forward

 The next  major challenge faced by advocates of NO CUTS, NO COMPROMISES, NO CONCESSIONS  when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the other social  programs — many of which have now taken a major hit — is March 27, 2013, by  which date Congress must act on a continuing resolution to keep the government  running for the rest of the fiscal year. The same arguments, charges and counter  charges that have filled the airwaves these past weeks by politicians from both  major parties will be heard again.

There are  differences between the Democrats and Republicans on the question of coping with  the deficit and the debt — no doubt about that — but what happens if the  Republicans cave in and agree to added revenue? Then, President Obama has  repeatedly said, he will support major cuts in “entitlements,” even if it means  taking on the liberal wing of his party.

Our labor  movement now faces a fateful choice: either rewrite history and place all the  blame on the Republicans for the cuts taking place, while calling for continued  support for the president and the Democratic Party to protect our cherished  benefits; or take an independent path and spearhead building a broad, massive  movement capable of mobilizing millions, including occupying the nation’s  Capitol if that becomes necessary, to defeat those hellbent on placing the  burden of the economic crisis and austerity on the backs of the working class  and the great majority, including beneficiaries of safety net programs that tens  of millions depend on for their survival.

 The Rutgers  Conference

It is in this  context that we urge the trade union movement to endorse the conference  scheduled for Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New  Jersey, on May 10-12, 2013. Any union endorsing this  conference is free to send as many representatives as it  wishes.

The  conference is co-sponsored by two labor organizations: the South Central  Federation of Labor, Wisconsin and the South Carolina AFL-CIO. Its  stated purpose is “to explore how we in labor can most effectively mount an  independent fightback action campaign based on such united front demands as  putting America back to work; preserving and  expanding safety net programs based on No Cuts, No Concessions, No Shared  Sacrifice; Medicare for All; retirement security; and redirecting war spending  to fund human needs.” The “Open Letter to Concerned Trade Unionists” announcing  the Rutgers conference is  below.

This is a  watershed moment in the life of the labor movement and the nation. Let’s rise to  the challenge, recognizing that if we do not, we face the prospect of further  damaging setbacks down the road. We have the numbers and the power to avert such  defeats, but only if we mobilize to do so.

Issued  by the Emergency Labor Network (ELN)

For  more information write emergencylabor@aol.com or P.O. Box 21004, Cleveland, OH44121 or call 216-736-4715 or visit our website at www.laborfightback.org. Donations  gratefully accepted. Please make checks payable to the ELN and mail to the above  P.O. Box.

One comment

  1. I have a hard time believing the Obama administration made a “miscalculation”. The only military spending affected is nonessential civilian positions that actually provided needed jobs to the communities where they’re located. I have heard no talk of real cuts in bases, hardware or theaters of operation. This was all pre-calculated and premeditated by the ones who pull the POTUS’s strings and make him dance.

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