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This Isn’t Deficit Control. It’s Assault.

Richard Trumka – President, AFL-CIO: Posted: February 16, 2011 09:17 AM

No job safety inspections while inspectors are furloughed for up to three months. No food safety inspections while inspectors are off the job for more than a month. Ten thousand teachers and aides cut from struggling schools and 7,000 special education teachers and staff gone. State and local job training and employment services phased out for up to 8 million workers. Medicare and Social Security operations crippled. Fewer local police officers. Wall Street reform stymied. Policing of the financial practices that sank our economy gutted. More than 340,000 transportation jobs killed.

I could go on and on and on for a dozen pages listing the real-world effects of the outrageously unworkable FY 2011 budget cuts House Republicans are trying to pass right now.

This isn’t “fiscal responsibility” or “deficit control.” It’s about the most bald-faced assault on America’s middle class I’ve ever seen — and clear political payback to CEOs who poured millions into the 2010 elections. CEOs don’t like job safety regulations, so the politicians they elected are trying to cut the funding and fire the inspectors. CEOs don’t want environmental safeguards, energy improvements or curbs on health insurance companies, so their politicians are pushing to just defund the programs.

The team of Wall Street CEOs and the politicians they support dug a massive deficit hole by tanking the economy and handing massive tax cuts to the very rich. Now they’re throwing the middle class into that hole and shoveling on the dirt.

To the voting public, the 2010 election was about one thing: Jobs. And jobs are still their top concern. But instead of creating jobs, the House Republicans’ slash-and-burn campaign would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and destroy services ordinary Americans rely on every day. Meanwhile, CEOs who enjoy record profits and huge bonuses aren’t being asked to sacrifice a damn thing–and the politicians pushing these cuts are secure in their taxpayer-funded pay and benefits.

Cuts of the magnitude the House Republicans propose for the remainder of this fiscal year would propel us squarely in the wrong direction — toward an America we do not want to be.

This federal budget madness echoes pound-foolish actions we’re seeing in state after state, where Republican legislators and governors elected with lucrative CEO support are ignoring the jobs crisis and playing politics as usual with the lives of working families. Govs. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio are determined to end collective bargaining for public employees and deflate good middle-class jobs — Walker is so determined he’s threatened to call out the National Guard to enforce his will. It doesn’t matter that definitive studies have shown public employees are paid less than comparable private-sector workers. It doesn’t matter that we rely on public employees to care for us when we’re ill or in danger, teach our children and keep our communities running. Reality doesn’t seem to matter to any of these characters.

The attack on public employees in Indiana actually would make it illegal for them to try to organize unions. The Indiana politicians aren’t just after government workers — they’ve also got it in for building trades workers. You know — the people whose skills and training means they build offices and highways and bridges that are safe for you. State attacks on building trades workers aim to allow unscrupulous contractors to get richer by low-balling bids for government projects and using less-qualified workers to do the job.

How far will this craziness go? How about repealing child labor laws? A Missouri state senator, Jane Cunningham (R), has introduced a bill to eliminate prohibitions on employing children younger than 14 and end limits on the hours a child may work.

The most frightening thing about these radical proposals may be that they move the bar on reasonable political action. In today’s atmosphere of bipartisan compromise at any cost, even the most outrageous assault on working people makes it more likely we’ll see a final “compromise” that’s devastating.

If there ever was a time for working men and women to become politically active at every level of government, it’s now. If there ever was a time to do all we can to save this fragile economic recovery, it’s now. And if there ever was a time to fight against wrong-headed, scorched-earth attacks and for good jobs, investments in our future, the basic health and safety protections we rely on and the Social Security and Medicare our seniors worked a lifetime to earn, it’s now.

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