12/17/2010 01:28 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

After Obama-GOP Tax Deal, AFL-CIO's Trumka Seeks to Rally Liberals to Save Medicare, Social Security

With Congress sending to the White House a tax deal larded with tax breaks for the rich, progressives and labor supporters now find themselves facing a challenge starting in January of beating back Republican-led efforts to cut back Social Security, Medicare and other safety-net programs in a GOP-run House of Representatives. As Howard Fineman observes, the Tea Party is already running the show in the Senate, still nominally controlled by Democrats, with the result that the omnibus spending bill needed to run the government was blocked.

On Thursday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who had earlier condemned the new $850 million deficit-raiding tax package because "the gains for the middle class and jobless workers in the deal come at too high a price," sent out an email alert worth reading. An open question is whether labor and progressive groups will have the financial and organizational power to fight an ascendant GOP and outside pro-business conservative groups such as Crossroads GPS that have virtually unlimited money to spend on TV ads and organizing, abetted by an enraged Tea Party movement. This week, the Karl-Rove-linked group announced its first post-election ad buy targeting vulnerable Democrats. What will progressives be able to offer to counter that on issue after issue over the next year?

One hopeful sign for liberals is the announced formation of American Bridge, organized by David Brock of Media Matters, for a counterweight to business interest groups, looking towards the 2012 elections. Yet the potentially well-funded group, chaired by Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend also aims to help Democrats "compete dollar to dollar" with Republicans over the next two years, she told ABC News. It could serve as a communications bulwark to promote a progressive agenda alongside labor's efforts.

Read Trumka's latest appeal here.

For more on labor and reform issues, read the Working in These Times blog.