WASHINGTON -- President Obama hasn't formally proposed his "compromise" budget plan yet, but the White House can already see cracks forming among its trusted progressive coalition over cutbacks to cherished safety net programs.
On Saturday, organized labor quickly made good on its promise to oppose a White House budget that includes cuts to Social Security and Medicare, with the AFL-CIO labor federation ripping the president's expected proposal with unusually tough language in an email blast to activists.
The email (below) came with the subject heading, "Obama's really bad idea."
"From all reports I’ve seen, President Obama is going to propose a budget plan next week that is unprecedented for a Democratic president," said the email from Damon Silvers, the AFL-CIO's policy director. "It will propose a cut to Social Security benefits for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities."
"It is unconscionable to ask seniors, people with disabilities and veterans who are barely making it to be squeezed even tighter at a time when corporations and the wealthiest 2% are not paying their fair share of taxes, despite soaring profits."
That the AFL-CIO would oppose such a budget comes as no big surprise -- the federation has been saying as much since the day after Obama's election victory over Mitt Romney. But the fact that one of the president's strongest allies is preemptively calling his proposal "unconscionable" hints at some of the withering criticism Obama can expect to come from his left flank.
The president will propose his budget on Wednesday. As HuffPost has reported, it is likely to include a proposal to readjust the way the cost of living is calculated for Social Security beneficiaries. Known as "chained CPI," the switch will effectively reduce payments over time. The budget is also expected to include additional means testing for Medicare.
The budget would trim the deficit by an estimated $1.8 trillion over a decade, with $600 billion in savings coming from revenue and $1.2 trillion coming from domestic program and entitlement cuts, according to the New York Times.
While the inclusion of chained CPI and other cuts strengthen the possibility of a "grand bargain" over the budget, many to Obama's left seem to be questioning the prudence of starting negotiations so close to the middle. Count the AFL-CIO among them.
In his email, Silvers steered activists to a petition and urged them to "tell President Obama: No 'chained CPI and no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or other cuts to Social Security benefits. Period.'
Read the email in full:
From all reports I’ve seen, President Obama is going to propose a budget plan next week that is unprecedented for a Democratic president. It will propose a cut to Social Security benefits for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.
It appears the proposed cut will take the form of “chained” CPI—a discredited way of calculating annual cost-of-living increases that does not keep up with actual costs, eating into benefits.
But there’s more. The president’s budget proposal also would require middle-class seniors—people who make $47,000 a year and more—to pay higher Medicare premiums.
These cuts are bad policy. And the only way we’re going to stop them is if President Obama and all members of Congress hear that we’re not going to tolerate them. Sign our petition to the president NOW.
It is unconscionable to ask seniors, people with disabilities and veterans who are barely making it to be squeezed even tighter at a time when corporations and the wealthiest 2% are not paying their fair share of taxes, despite soaring profits.
It’s bad policy to make cuts that will weaken our economic recovery.
And it’s wrong, at a time of record income inequality and stagnant wages, to make the gap even worse by undercutting the retirement security of working- and middle-class Americans.
The majority of Americans oppose cuts to our country’s most important family protection programs. It’s time to make some noise about it.
We need to invest in America's working families, not pull the rug out from under them. That starts with repealing the sequester and making corporations and the richest 2% pay their fair share. And that should never, ever include cuts to benefits that millions of working families rely on.
Tell President Obama: No “chained” CPI and no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or other cuts to Social Security benefits. Period.:
Director of Policy, AFL-CIO