Labor to Obama: Back off Social Security

The AFL-CIO is pushing President Obama to back off from Social Security benefit cuts in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

The nation’s largest labor federation sent an email Tuesday to activists asking them to email the White House and lawmakers and oppose the changes to Social Security that the president has offered to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in deficit-reduction package.

“Boehner has been talking to President Obama about cutting Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs), which are especially important to keep inflation from eating away the benefits that seniors and people with disabilities depend on,” said the email, signed by Damon Silvers, the AFL-CIO’s director of policy.

“Email President Obama, your member of the House of Representatives and your senators to demand they reject House Speaker Boehner’s proposal to extend tax cuts for the rich and that they oppose COLA cuts and any other cuts to Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare benefits, regardless of who proposes them.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also tweeted on Tuesday that “working people are calling on President Obama to get tough and take COLA cuts off the table” with a link to a webpage that encourages activists to email the president and others in Washington.

In the email, Silvers blasted Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal, which would allow the tax rates for those making $1 million or more a year to rise.

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“They want to extend tax cuts on income between $250,000 and $1 million a year — which would benefit millionaires as well. In fact, about half of the Boehner tax cut would go to millionaires,” Silvers said about Boehner’s plan, which is expected to be voted on Thursday. 

During the lame-duck session, labor has been campaigning for lawmakers to address the “fiscal cliff” by only raising tax rates on the wealthy. Unions say safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, should not be touched, despite their large share of the federal budget. 

Obama has proposed using a “chained” consumer price index for benefit programs, including Social Security, which would change the way that cost-of-living adjustments are calculated. That change would cut benefits over time for recipients. 

Labor and liberal activists had feared before the election that Obama would “betray” them by proposing cuts to entitlement programs during fiscal cliff talks. The president had offered entitlement reforms during the failed debt-ceiling talks with Boehner in 2011.

Unions were staunch allies of the Democratic Party this past election and helped turn out votes for Obama in vital battleground states such as Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. Their campaigning didn’t stop once voters went to the polls.

On the Thursday after Election Day, the AFL-CIO organized roughly 100 events across the country to tell lawmaker to protect entitlements and raise taxes on the wealthy. A trio of unions — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union — have also been sponsoring several rounds of television and radio ads on the fiscal cliff since the election.