Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Super Cutbacks Loom From the US Congress


Super cutbacks loom

Published Nov 14, 2011 10:25 PM

A secret Star Chamber is meeting ­right now in Washington, D.C. Like those of Medieval English monarchies, this assembly flouts its abuse of power. Its sessions are held behind closed doors, far from members of the public whose fate they are deciding.

The 12 Republicans and Democrats on the congressional super committee (formerly the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction) are surreptitiously making monumental budgetary decisions. The standard of living and quality of life for tens of millions of people in this country is in jeopardy.

Yet, it’s Wall Street’s dream. This body is doing what the capitalist class has wanted to do for decades: Undo the social insurance and health care plans that the working class fought for and won — and paid for.

Its mission is to come up with a 10-year “deficit reduction” plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget. Congress would have to OK it and then it would go to President Barack Obama to sign. Republicans have proposed $2.2 trillion in cutbacks, with most coming from social programs. They vehemently oppose any new taxes for the superrich.

However, the Democrats have put forth a $3.2 trillion plan that goes even further than the super committee’s mandate and is to the right of many bipartisan plans. It includes some tax increases for the wealthy, but — and it’s a big but — their plan also proposes massive cutbacks, including a $475 billion reduction for Medicare and Medicaid.

The committee has until so-called Thanksgiving eve to arrive at a severe austerity plan, as required by the Budget Control Act. If it doesn’t, an automatic trigger will cut $1.2 trillion “across the board,” hammering essential social insurance and government programs. Although it mandates “equal cuts” to the military budget, the Pentagon will never go without war funding.

Either way, the masses of people are being squeezed between a proverbial rock and a hard place.

The National Organization for Women’s Action Alert calls for mass pressure on Congress to oppose “Politicians’ raid [of] critically important programs that benefit millions in order to pay for … wars, Wall Street greed and politicians’ failure to require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share in federal taxes.”

NOW condemned committee Republicans who all voted for “the notorious Ryan budget, which would have decimated Medicare and Medicaid and threatened the integrity of Social Security, while … enhancing tax breaks for big corporations and millionaires.”

“But,” NOW says, “it’s beyond distressing to see some Democrats … embracing plans that would cause great hardship on retirees — mainly women, particularly women of color, as well as people with severe disabilities and our oldest seniors. The Democrats’ proposal would change the cost-of-living allowance so that monthly benefits are dramatically reduced, further impoverishing the millions of seniors [and disabled people] who depend exclusively on their Social Security check.”

NOW chastised Democrats for not having a strong revenue-generating plan: “Their proposed ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases is … miserable … the most anemic of all deficit reduction plans.”

National polls show that the majority of people oppose cutting Social Security or health care programs, raising eligibility ages or putting more medical costs on their backs.

There are ways to solve the “deficit crisis” without further harm to working-class and poor communities. A “People’s Super Committee” could propose: First, terminate the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 5 percent. This would raise $2 trillion over 10 years. Second, end U.S. wars abroad: Interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost more than $1.3 trillion. Third, stop bank bailouts: Trillions of dollars have been handed over in recent years.

What can be done? Workers World congratulates anti-war activists who disrupted a super committee session, and we cheer on the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that is challenging capitalist greed. WW supports wholeheartedly the call for an Occupy for Jobs Movement mandated at the Nov. 5 People’s Assembly at Hostos Community College in Bronx, N.Y.

The only way to set back this criminal, pro-corporate onslaught on the multinational working class is to continue and increase mass pressure and protests. All the social programs now under attack were won through struggle and belong to the people.
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