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GOP House Members still fighting? Gonna be costly.

No, it’s not de ja vu. It’s just that… so much of it is still exactly on-point.  Wish it wasn’t, but it is. So, with very few updates, here’s a repeat of my post from February 6, 2013:

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Last person leaving, please dock the doorsHoping for bipartisan cooperation, now that the election is over? Think again.

The weekend before the inauguration, Republicans gathered in Williamsburg to discuss strategies for “fighting” the President. Just a week later, former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was telling a gathering of conservatives that “Republicans control both the House and most of the statehouses. So we have to oppose the president and the Senate on some fronts—and engage them on others…”

Does that sound like cooperation to you?

Looks like it’s going to be an interesting next few months. Two dates to mark on your calendar:

On March 1st, the sequestration cuts are scheduled to go went into effect. Cutting government services through these automatic, across-the-board cuts is expected to send the economy back into recession. One example: according to a study commissioned by the airline industry, the FAA’s share of the sequestration cuts is about $1 billion a year. That cut would reduce the nation’s air traffic between 5% and 10%, and the country would lose between 66,000 and 132,000 jobs related to air transportation. The irony? The economic losses would cause tax revenues to drop by as much as $1 billion a year. (Hmmn… $1 billion in tax revenues lost because of a $1 billion spending cut. Not a whole lot of deficit-reduction going on, is there?)  After members of Congress were inconvenienced by airport delays, the FAA was granted special treatment under the sequestration act.  Recent estimates of the economic costs of sequestration include:  1.6 million jobs and 1.2% of GDP.

On March 27th  September 30th, the “continuing resolution” that funded federal government expired. That means a possible “government shutdown”. According to Politico, a majority of GOP House members “are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner ‘may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,’ said a top GOP leadership adviser.”

What happens if the government shuts down? Federal employees who are deemed “essential” are still required to go to work – they just don’t get paid until after Congress approves a bill to pay them. The last time there was a significant government shutdown, almost a half-million federal employees were required to work without pay for three weeks.

The economic damage went far beyond the family finances of federal employees. The crisis also caused 11 states to suspend unemployment insurance, due to lack of federal funds. Veterans’ services were suddenly unavailable (including counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and pension and education payments). The crisis affected the oil industry, leaving more than 10,000 barrels a day untapped while companies waited for federal reviews. The tourism industry suffered millions of dollars in losses each day of the shutdown, because passports and visas were not processed. The housing industry suffered when $800 million worth of mortgage loans were delayed. The crisis halted cleanup of 609 toxic waste sites. It left hundreds of thousands of children in limbo, waiting for foster care or adoption.

And that was only a partial government shutdown. Most of the government still had funding, during that shutdown. (Just imagine what may happen on March 27th! now!)

There’s a moral here, folks. Government services are integral to our nation’s economy.

Is there any hope that Congress could learn that lesson, in the next month or so? Or is the GOP going to insist on doing economic damage, “just to get it out of their system”?

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s Statement on FY 2014 Budget Proposal

From WIKIPediaA president’s budget is more than just numbers.  It is a profoundly moral document.  We believe cutting Social Security benefits and shifting costs to Medicare beneficiaries – while exempting corporate America from shared sacrifice – is wrong and indefensible.

The administration’s budget cuts cost-of-living increases for current and future Social Security beneficiaries by $130 billion over 10 years, and much more in future years.  It shifts $64 billion in health care costs to Medicare beneficiaries over 10 years.  Yet despite closing some loopholes, it calls for corporate income tax reform that is “revenue neutral” – meaning it fails to ask big, profitable corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.

The Obama budget also continues to demand more sacrifice from federal employees than from Wall Street.  Federal employees did not cause the Great Recession.  They did not cause the deficits that resulted from the Great Recession.  Yet their pay and their retirement keeps getting cut.  Why?

Putting aside the injustice of demanding sacrifice from the innocent while letting the guilty off scot free, the Obama budget falls short of putting our economy on a path towards higher wages and full employment.  As we have said many times, the greatest economic challenge facing America is the jobs crisis, not the deficit.  Yet the administration cuts the part of the budget that pays for investments in worker training and jobs, which has already been cut to its lowest level since the Eisenhower administration, by another $100 billion. This austerity budget is bad economic policy at a moment when the economy remains weak and we urgently need more job-creating investments.

The President’s budget does include several proposals worthy of praise.  It aims to provide universal access to pre-kindergarten programs that are so important to our children.  It strengthens programs to protect workers against wage theft, unsafe workplaces and employer retaliation. It closes the outrageous loophole that allows Wall Street financial managers to pay a special lower tax rate.  And it reforms some of the tax loopholes that allow corporations to get away with shifting profits overseas to avoid U.S. taxes.

Last November, working Americans voted for jobs and growth, not for budget austerity and benefit cuts.  We urge the President to drop these cuts and build support for investing in jobs.

 

How Will Up to 22 Furlough Days Impact Government Services and our Communities?

IBEW members like this Army Corp of Engineers employee face furloughs or worse due to sequestration.

Thousands of IBEW members who work for the federal government or for private government contractors awoke Friday morning facing a shaky economic future. The sequestration – the series of draconian federal spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion – went into effect March 1, meaning that more than 1 million federal workers face unpaid leave or worse unless Congress takes action to rescind the cuts.

A last ditch effort by Senate Democrats that would have eliminated the arbitrary budget cuts for the remainder of the year – saving 750,000 jobs – was defeated Feb. 28.

Says IBEW Government Employees Director Chico McGill:

Too many members of Congress seem to have a hard time understanding the toll this will take on real working people.

Congressional Republicans and President Obama agreed to the sequester in the summer of 2011. Under that agreement, failure to slash the deficit by $4 trillion by 2013 would result in automatic across the board cuts.

Obama and congressional Democrats offered numerous plans to avoid the cuts, but were blocked by the GOP, which rejected any budget plan that did not involve cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Paul O’Connor, a second-generation tradesman at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire says it will take months before the damage is fully felt, but when it comes, the cuts will hit workers and the community hard.

Federal employees, like O’Connor’s co-workers, get a 30-day notice before they can be furloughed, which means come April, approximately 6,000 Portsmouth shipyard workers face a one day a week furlough. That amounts to a 20 percent wage cut.

O’Connor, who heads the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO at the yard, says:

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an extra 20 percent left over at the end of month I can just give away. Our people can get by in the short term, skipping this or that bill but that’s just not sustainable. Many workers have most of their family employed here. We’re going to see whole households seeing their budgets slashed.

And it’s not just workers who will feel the pain, O’Connor says.

We’re a mainstay of the local economy. Who’s going to spend money in the community? At the restaurants, the car dealers, the doctor’s office? Everyone will be hurting.

The IBEW represents approximately 65,000 government employees in the United States and Canada. The majority are employed by private companies under contract with the federal government. For many of those, layoffs could come right away.

Says Government Employees Department International Representative Dennis Phelps:

Many won’t even get a warning. We could see a lot of straight up layoffs right away.

Major military contractors like General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin are expected to lose millions in lost contracts over the next year, potentially costing tens of thousands of jobs. The maritime industry will be particularly hard hit, with U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operation, Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger testifying before Congress that the cuts will curtail its surface and air operations by 25 percent.

Baltimore Local 1383 represents 70 electricians at the Coast Guard Yard south of the city. Business Manager Barbara Rodekohr says there is a lot of uncertainty about what is in store for them:

They may have to cut people, but we just don’t know how many and when.

O’Connor says the arbitrary and wasteful nature of the cuts is upsetting.

The reality is this will end up costing taxpayers more than it will save.

He says the shipyard has specific deadlines to meet, and every day they aren’t working is another day they’re behind schedule.

Backlog in getting these ships off the dock and into the sea means lost dollars – a lot of them.

The sequester will also cut millions in state and local funding, threatening the tentative economic recovery.

Says McGill:

Once this starts trickling down, who knows how it will affect everyone else. How will slashing school or law enforcement funding affect construction starts for example?

O’Connor blames the anti-government rhetoric from Tea Party activists and many GOP leaders for the congressional stalemate.

The rhetoric has become so acidic and mean-spirited in Congress. We’ve been under constant attack since the Republicans took over Congress in 2010, with us being the whipping boy for all the country’s problems. People say the sequestration is only about faceless bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. but it’s not. There are federal workers in every state, and even if you don’t work for the government, who isn’t touched by a federal agency in their daily lives – the USDA, the TSA, border guard?

The Federal Workers Alliance – a group that includes the IBEW and other unions representing federal workers – has launched an online discussion board where federal workers can tell in their own words what the sequester means for them and their family. Click here to read some of those stories.

GOP House members still in a “fighting” mood?
Could be very costly.

Last person leaving, please dock the doors
Hoping for bipartisan cooperation, now that the election is over?  Think again.

The weekend before the inauguration, Republicans gathered in Williamsburg to discuss strategies for “fighting” the President.  Just a week later, former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was telling a gathering of conservatives that “Republicans control both the House and most of the statehouses.  So we have to oppose the president and the Senate on some fronts—and engage them on others…”

Does that sound like cooperation to you?

Looks like it’s going to be an interesting next few months.  Two dates to mark on your calendar:

  • On March 1st, the sequestration cuts are scheduled to go into effect.  Cutting government services through these automatic, across-the-board cuts is expected to send the economy back into recession.  One example:  according to a study commissioned by the airline industry, the FAA’s share of the sequestration cuts is about $1 billion a year.  That cut would reduce the nation’s air traffic between 5% and 10%, and the country would lose between 66,000 and 132,000 jobs related to air transportation.  The irony?  The economic losses would cause tax revenues to drop by as much as $1 billion a year.  (Hmmn… $1 billion in tax revenues lost because of a $1 billion spending cut.  Not a whole lot of deficit-reduction going on, is there?)
  • On March 27th, the “continuing resolution” that funds federal government will expire.   That means a possible “government shutdown”According to Politico, a majority of GOP House members “are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner ‘may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,’ said a top GOP leadership adviser.”

What happens if the government shuts down?  Federal employees who are deemed “essential” are still required to go to work – they just don’t get paid until after Congress approves a bill to pay them.  The last time there was a significant government shutdown, almost a half-million federal employees were required to work without pay for three weeks.

The economic damage went far beyond the family finances of federal employees.  The crisis also caused 11 states to suspend unemployment insurance, due to lack of federal funds.  Veterans’ services were suddenly unavailable (including counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and pension and education payments).  The crisis affected the oil industry, leaving more than 10,000 barrels a day untapped while companies waited for federal reviews.  The tourism industry suffered millions of dollars in losses each day of the shutdown, because passports and visas were not processed.   The housing industry suffered when $800 million worth of mortgage loans were delayed.  The crisis halted cleanup of 609 toxic waste sites.  It left hundreds of thousands of children in limbo, waiting for foster care or adoption.

And that was only a partial government shutdown.  Most of the government still had funding, during that shutdown.  (Just imagine what may happen on March 27th!)

There’s a moral here, folks.  Government services are integral to our nation’s economy.

Is there any hope that Congress could learn that lesson, in the next month or so?  Or is the GOP going to insist on doing economic damage, “just to get it out of their system”?

 

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