WASHINGTON – Leaders of organizations with millions of members denounced the Republican-majority House for pushing a $100-billion tax giveaway to big corporations while providing no help for millions of jobless workers.
The angry blast came during an Oct. 24 National Press Club news conference called by the Campaign for America’s Future to react to the GOP’s so-called ‘economic stimulus’ package, narrowly passed in the full House the same day.
Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, accused the House GOP of ‘war profiteering’ in attempting to ram the tax cut giveaway through.’It is a shameless attermpt to use the crisis to further the interests of large corporations and the wealthy.’
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney quoted from a headline in The New York Times on the federal response to anthrax scare on Capitol Hill. The headline read, ‘A quick response for politicians; A slower one for mail workers.’
That double standard was evident again when Congress rushed through $15 billion in bailouts for the airlines but then filibustered a bill to provide modest help for 200,000 airline workers laid off since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Sweeney charged.
‘Now we’re faced with the same twisted priorities when it comes to stimulus legislation,’ he said. ‘And if the House Republican bill succeeds it will be ‘a quick response for big business and the wealthy; no response to the needs of working families.”
He called it a ‘shameless approach ‘ that will provide ‘no help to the 500,000 working men and women who are being laid off in the wake of the terrorist attacks.’
Sweeney accused Ways and Means Chair Bill Thomas (R-N.Y.) of a ‘money grab for your special interest friends’ while workers ‘are digging us out of the rubble and putting out fires … keeping our country moving in spite of new and constant threats to public health and safety.’
Sweeney pointed out that the package would repeal the alternative minimum tax giving IBM and a dozen other Fortune 500 corporations $100 million each in tax gifts while providing no help to laid-off workers.
It would give $27,000 each next year to the wealthiest 1 percent and provide ‘nothing for extended unemployment benefits, health care and job retraining for people who are hurt,’ Sweeney said. ‘It just doesn’t add up.’
Sweeney called instead for an ‘economic stimulus that puts families first,’ a plan outlined in a packet distributed to reporters at the news conference. The AFL-CIO plan puts money in the pockets of those who need it by insuring that jobless workers receive unemployment compensation and continued health-care protection. It also calls for ‘federal investment in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure’ to create millions of well-paying jobs.
Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), pointed out that one-third of the members of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees (HERE) union are laid off in the collapse of the travel and tourism industry. Among the hardest hit, she said, are former welfare recipients forced to find jobs under so-called ‘welfare reform.’
Many have been laid off and now face the five-year lifetime limit on receiving welfare benefits. ‘Unless the five-year time clock is stopped, we will see some of these families slide into desperate poverty,’ she said.
Cecilia Munoz, director of the National Council of La Raza, said Latino workers are ‘over-represented’ in the ranks of those laid off. ‘The Republican tax plan does very little for the hardest hit.’
Congress must act to expand the numbers of jobless workers who receive jobless benefits. Currently only 39 percent of the unemployed receive benefits.
Debbie Sease, legislative director of the Sierra Club, said a massive public works jobs program ‘would be a win-win situation’ for workers and the environment.
‘Generally, $1 billion invested in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure can generate more than 40,000 jobs when considering direct, indirect or induced job creation,’ she said. ‘These projects will quickly generate two million new jobs while preventing the spread of waterborne disease and improving the quality of our lakes and rivers.’
Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, warned that in the war against terrorism the livelihoods and economic security of millions could become ‘among the first casualties.’
Bush’s first tax cut, he pointed out ‘squandered a once-in-a-lifetime budget surplus’ of over $1.6 trillion and ‘failed miserably’ to stimulate the faltering economy. ‘The earlier round of tax cuts should be repealed,’ he said, to provide funds needed for safety net programs.