We have five weeks to tell Congress to let the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% expire and reject any benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
As Congress deliberates during the "lame-duck" session, benefits for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are being targeted for cuts. Some say benefit cuts are necessary because we face a debt crisis, but working families and their allies strongly reject such claims.
It is true that we face a projected budget imbalance over the long term, but the answer is to tackle the real reasons for this imbalance and not use deficits as an excuse to pursue unrelated agendas.
Here are a few specific AFL-CIO suggestions that would tackle the true causes of this problem without cutting benefits.
- Stop lowering tax rates for corporations and the wealthy, which balloon the deficit and do little to boost the economy.
- Reign in health care cost growth by making our entire health care system more cost-effective and delivering care in more cost-effective ways, not by shifting costs to individuals.
- Allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with drug companies.
- Create a robust public option that would offer lower premiums and partner with Medicare to promote cost-saving reforms.
- Eliminate all tax incentives for exporting jobs overseas.
- Let estate and gift tax cuts expire at the end of this year.
- Increase income tax rates for millionaires and billionaires.
- End special low tax rates on income from stocks and bonds.
- Establish a modest tax of less than 1% on Wall Street speculation.
- "Scrap the cap" on Social Security payroll taxes so that people who earn more than $110,100 pay the same rate as everyone else.
Ultimately the best way to stabilize the debt over the long term is to put America back to work, raise wages, reduce inequality, rebuild the middle class and make the transition to a 21st century economy.
As Jacob Hacker and Nate Loewentheil of Yale University call for in "Prosperity Economics," invest in infrastructure to grow the economy, enhance economic security for working families to make markets work better and reinvigorate our democracy.