WASHINGTON — The AFL-CIO launched a last-minute telephone blitz to members of Congress, August 9, demanding they approve a bill to provide $26 billion in emergency funding to the states to avert ruinous Medicaid costs and the layoff of 300,000 teachers, and first responders.
The AFL-CIO’s toll-free call-in number is 877-442-6801. A House vote on the package is scheduled for Aug. 10.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) interrupted the lawmakers’ summer recess, calling them back into a special session to vote on the package after the Senate finally broke a Republican filibuster and approved the emergency spending package last Thursday Aug. 5, by a vote of 61-38 with only two Republicans voting in the affirmative.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) sneered at the bill, calling it a “payoff to union bosses and their liberal special interests.” Falsely he charged that the measure is a “bailout” that will add to the federal deficits.
Pelosi fired back, “Why wouldn’t House Republicans want to keep 310,000 teachers, first responders and private sector workers on the job instead of on the unemployment lines?”
In fact, the measure approved by the Senate is “deficit neutral.” It pays for the measure through closing tax loopholes for U.S. multinational corporations that export jobs overseas. Unfortunately, it also reduces food stamps to satisfy the right-wing “deficit hawks.”
The measure also provides $16 billion in supplemental Medicaid funding. Ballooning deficits in state budgets were forcing state governors to announce sweeping layoffs of state workers or cuts in Medicaid benefits for low income families. Washington state, for example, was facing the layoff of thousands of teachers and first responders to offset a $3 billion budget shortfall over the next two years.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), fourth ranking leader of the Senate played a major role in the victory which funnels $500 million to Washington state. Murray’s Republican rival in the Nov. 2 election is diehard ultra-rightist, Dino Rossi, who denounces all economic stimulus funding and vows if elected to join the “Party of NO!” in voting against benefit programs in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Despite the aid package there are deep worries that state and local governments will be forced to layoff tens of thousands of workers. The economic recovery is slowing to a halt and the U.S. could slip back into a “double dip” recession. Private employers reported a net gain of only 71,000 jobs in July. But 202,000 jobs were lost in federal, state, and local government, 143,000 of the temporary census workers.
It added up to a net loss of 131,000 jobs. The jobless rate is stuck at 9.5 percent and many analysts warn it could rise to 10 percent or higher without bold federal action to create jobs. Unemployment in the building trades has soared above 17 percent. The 14.6 million unemployed plus 8.5 million part-time workers who want full time jobs, and the 2.6 million who have given up looking for work, totals 25.8 million unemployed and underemployed.
The new jobs unemployed workers are finding pay far lower wages, often with no benefits. This steep decline in income is the reason people have postponed spending for goods and services needed to jumpstart the economy.