WASHINGTON – Progressive groups, led by the Campaign for America’s Future, are campaigning hard against proposals floated by deficit-cutting “Super Committee” Democrats to cut Medicare increases by $485 billion over the next decade and to limit future increases in Social Security payments.

But with the Thanksgiving Day deadline for the bipartisan congressional committee’s report fast approaching, and with its six Democratic and six Republican lawmakers meeting behind closed doors, at loggerheads and refusing to talk about compromises, progressives’ lobbying for the committee to fail may succeed — or be irrelevant.

And the progressives claim AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is on their side.

The groups make the point that Social Security and Medicare are so vital to the U.S. that it would be better for the Super Committee to fail, and for $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to start in 2013, than for the panel to cut the two programs. The automatic cuts do not include Social Security.

The progressives claim the AFL-CIO’s support in saying they want the panel to fail, because the two programs would be protected. Trumka has said that labor, too, will oppose politicians who propose cutting Social Security and Medicare. But that’s not the same as saying he wants the Super Committee to fail.

Indeed, Trumka told a telephone press conference in early November that union leaders, himself included, proposed other ways to close the deficits in the long term. One is to rein in health care costs, by giving the government power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid, and to add a public option to the health insurance revision law Congress passed last year, among other ideas.

And Trumka would also close the deficit in future years by letting the GOP Bush tax cuts for the rich expire at the end of 2012 and by enacting a small financial transactions tax – which would raise $350 billion yearly – on trading by Wall Street and other corporate interests whose financial finagling led to the recession in the first place.

“‘Super Committee’ Democrats put all their concessions on the table up front in the vain hope Republicans might reciprocate. But it doesn’t work that way,” he said in a statement the progressives quoted. “In this political climate,” he added, “Concessions beget more concessions – not a workable compromise. The AFL-CIO will oppose any cuts to Social Security or Medicare benefits or to the federal contribution to Medicaid. We call on politicians to stand firm and demand Wall Street and the wealthy finally pay their fair share.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.