GOP Grinches trying to steal Christmas

The AFL-CIO is tweeting today that GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, by continuing their push to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, are keeping company with the Grinch that stole Christmas.

The federation has launched an on-line campaign telling the two leaders to “stop holding working people hostage just so the wealthiest 2 percent can receive more tax giveaways.” They are urging people to click here to join the campaign:

“Anyone who wants to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits to finance tax giveaways for the rich must have a heart two sizes too small,” writes Jackie Tortora on the AFL-CIO Now blog today.

Boehner has just rejected a compromise offer from the administration to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff. That offer, not good enough for the Republicans, is actually opposed by labor and many of its allies as one that pads the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. The compromise offer changes the way cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits are calculated – to the disadvantage of benefit recipients.

Democrats in the House are speaking out against the proposal, known as the “chained CPI.”

“It’s a benefit cut – pure and simple,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Il.). “An average earner retiring in 2011 at age 65 would lose $6,000 in benefits over 15 years. It’s particularly devastating for women – who live longer, rely more on Social Security and receive lower benefits.”

“The less money our Social Security recipients – including 9 million veterans – are able to spend, the less money goes to the businesses that create jobs,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. “Chained CPI makes life harder for millions of retirees, weakens Social Security and doesn’t reduce the deficit by a penny. It’s a Beltway fig leaf that I will never support.”

Grijalva said that, instead, there should be talk about lifting the cap on high earners paying into Social Security, “not inventing reasons to take money from American retirees.”

“Social Security has nothing to do with the debt problems that we’re facing in the first place,” noted Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla.

Political strategist and community organizer Mike Lux writes movingly in a Daily Kos article about what happens when Social Security benefits are cut:

 “When I was a young organizer for Iowa Citizen Action Network, we were doing a lot of work on utility rate hikes. I met an elderly woman, maybe late 70’s, who was living on her Social Security check. As utility prices went through the roof, her cost of living increase in that check wasn’t coming anywhere close to covering the costs she had. She was extremely worried, because as frugal as she was she couldn’t figure out how to keep her heat on, pay her rent, and buy a few meager groceries. She thought the utilities might end up shutting her heat off.

“I suggested a social services agency she could go to, and that she might check with neighborhood churches to see if they had funds that could help. And I promised that I would do everything I could to fight for her. I pushed hard on the local utility companies to try and shame them away from turning the heat off the dead of an Iowa winter, which didn’t work very well because the utility companies had no shame.

“And my organization pushed in the legislature to get a bill passed that would prohibit utility shutoffs in the wintertime, which didn’t pass the first year but did the second year we worked on it.

“But it didn’t pass in time to save the woman I met. Reading the Cedar Rapids Gazette one day that winter, I saw that the woman I met had been found dead in her apartment of hypothermia after the utility company had turned off her heat.”

Photo: Loren Javier // CC 2.0


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.