Labor launches new drive to back Obama on deficit

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The AFL-CIO has launched an on-line letter campaign that will enable millions to directly write their lawmakers in support of the president's deficit reduction and job creation plans.

"President Obama understands the severity of America's jobs crisis," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said this morning, in a statement accompanying the letter. "He has called on Congress to get moving on solutions and to pay for his American Jobs Act by restoring tax fairness. He hit the nail on the head when he said, 'Warren Buffet's secretary shouldn't pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffet.'"

The launch of the letter campaign follows by only a day release by the nation's largest labor federation of an outline it insists the congressional supercommittee should use to bring down the debt.

The labor federation says the supercommittee can best accomplish its assigned task by calling for higher taxes on the wealthy, establishment of a government-run health care program and withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

In a memo yesterday to reporters Alison Omens, the AFL-CIO's director of media outreach, said the letter campaign slated to be released today urges members of Congress to get Americans back to work by implementing President Obama's American Jobs Act and his deficit reduction plan.

In addition, the letter calls on lawmakers not to pass any measure that cuts Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

The latest action by the labor movement comes as a congressional "supercommittee" begins its job of finding $1.5 trillion in government spending that can be cut.

"The AFL-CIO believes that for Congress the task, first and foremost is to solve the jobs crisis and that the nation's long term debt can best be stabilized in ways that will not worsen the jobs crisis," Omens said.

Also, the federation says healthcare costs paid by the government would best be reduced by establishing a government-run health insurance program.

By allowing people to opt into such a program, says the AFL-CIO, at least $88 billion would be saved over 10 years.

The group further maintains that by allowing importation of prescription drugs the supercommittee could save $11 billion over 10 years; and by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices there could be savings of $200 billion over 10 years.

A key part of the AFL-CIO recommendations to the supercommittee are tax hikes for the wealthy and the financial services sector. These include a financial transactions tax, saving more than $1 trillion over 10 years; a millionaire surtax, saving $400 billion over 10 years and a tax on capital gains as ordinary income, saving more than $168 billion over 10 years.

The federation also calls for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, for a savings of more than $12 billion.

The AFL-CIO plan for the supercommittee also emphasizes that the group should refrain from any calls for additional sacrifices from federal workers. By most estimates, the income lost by these workers due to the pay freeze in recent years amounts to $60 billion over 10 years.

Unions say any further cuts in benefits, pay or pensions for these workers will harm not just their livelihoods but also the entire economy.

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