Richard Trumka & Sen. Tom Harkin on “Fiscal Cliff” Compromise
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
The agreement passed by the Senate last night is a breakthrough in beginning to restore tax fairness and achieves some key goals of working families. It does not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. It raises more than $700 billion over 10 years, including interest savings, by ending the Bush income tax cuts for families making more than $450,000 a year. And in recognition of the continuing jobs crisis, it extends unemployment benefits for a year. A strong message from voters and a relentless echo from grassroots activists over the last six weeks helped get us this far.
But lawmakers should have listened even better. The deal extends the Bush tax cuts for families earning between $250,000 and $450,000 a year and makes permanent Bush estate tax cuts exempting estates valued up to $5 million from any tax. These concessions amount to over $200 billion in additional tax cuts for the 2%.
And because of Republican hostage taking, the deal simply postpones the $1.2 trillion sequester for only two months and does not address the debt ceiling, setting the stage for more fiscal blackmail at the expense of the middle class.
Instead of moving to address our nation’s real jobs and public investment crisis, our leaders will be debating a prolonged artificial fiscal crisis. In the weeks to come, as the confrontation over the economic direction of our country continues, the working men and women of the AFL-CIO will continue to fight to keep poor and middle class families from giving more so rich people can continue paying less. That means a fairer, more progressive tax system, an end to Bush tax rates for the 2% and protection of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts.
Press Release: Sen. Tom Harkin
Tonight, at the 11th hour, we find ourselves considering legislation to address a manufactured ‘fiscal cliff.’ Much of this could have been avoided had the U.S. House taken up the Senate-passed legislation to avert tax hikes on 98 percent of Americans.
“Instead, we find ourselves voting on an agreement that fails to address our number one priority – creating good, middle class jobs in Iowa and throughout the country. Further, it does not generate the revenue necessary for the country to meet its needs for everything from education for our children, to job training, to other critical supports for the middle class. The deal also makes tax benefits for high income earners permanent, while tax benefits designed to help those of modest means and the middle class are only extended for five years. In essence, this agreement locks in a tax structure that is grossly unfair to middle class Americans, one which provides permanent tax assistance to wealthy Americans,
and only temporary relief to everyone else.
“Every dollar that wealthy taxpayers do not pay under this deal, we will eventually ask Americans of modest means to forgo in Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. It is shortsighted to look at these issues in isolation from one another, especially when Congressional Republicans have been crystal clear that they intend to seek spending cuts to programs like Social Security just two months from now, using the debt limit as leverage.
“I am all for compromise, but a compromise that sets a new tax threshold for the wealthiest Americans while neglecting the very backbone of our country – the middle class – is a compromise I simply cannot support. This is the wrong direction for Iowa and our country, and at a time when our fragile economy
cannot sustain further damage.”