WASHINGTON -- The AFL-CIO union federation called on lawmakers Wednesday to repeal the so-called sequestration that will lead to $85 billion in automatic spending cuts starting Friday, arguing that it was the wisest course both politically and economically.
That sequestration is a stupid idea, AFL-CIO policy director Damon Silvers told HuffPost, "is the only thing anybody can agree on. And no one can agree on what to replace it with."
The idea of flat-out sequester repeal doesn't seem to carry much currency on Capitol Hill at the moment, even though few lawmakers want to argue that the sequester itself is sound policy. Unless the White House and congressional Republicans can hatch an alternate deal by week's end -- an increasingly unlikely scenario -- budget cuts will start to hit everything from defense contracts and schools to food inspections and national parks. Like lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, organized labor has strongly opposed the sequester cuts because of the economic harm they could inflict on a sluggish recovery.
The idea behind the sequester was to force Congress to make hard budgetary decisions or face severe automatic cuts. Republicans would seem unwilling to scrap the sequester entirely, given the leverage it provides them to trim government spending, and plenty of Democrats would worry about the political repercussions of ditching the sequester at this point. But Silvers argued that no one should fear walking away from the sequester challenge, given that the challenge itself is self-imposed and "stupid."
"This was designed to force Congress to do something stupid and destructive," Silvers said. "The smart thing is to not do something stupid and destructive."
"The sequester, as a package, needs to go," he went on. "There's a need for revenue in the long run -- that needs to be done in a way that has the least impact on the economy. We need to get rid of [tax] loopholes. That's the approach that ought to be used to replace it, minimizing the impact of any mistaken austerity."
In a statement calling for the sequester's repeal, the AFL-CIO proposed closing tax loopholes for corporations and wealthy Americans, a measure supported by many Democrats; and the labor federations said entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare shouldn't face cuts in a deal to avert the sequester. Scrapping the sequester, according to the statement, would "disarm" GOP "hostage takers."
Silvers said he believes the repeal is a realistic option, if only because no one wants to take any credit for the sequester itself.
"That tells you why the demand to repeal it is viable politically," Silvers said. "They're trying to blame it on different folks. How about not doing it?"