AFL-CIO outlines how supercommittee can bring down debt

The AFL-CIO is proposing a number of tax hikes and healthcare policy reforms, along with drawing troops down in Afghanistan and Iraq, to help bring down the national deficit.

In a memo sent to reporters Monday, Alison Omens, the labor federation’s director of media outreach, says the AFL-CIO will be urging members of Congress this October to help get Americans back to work, including passing $140 billion in funds for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and aiding state governments as proposed by President Obama in his American Jobs Act.

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Further, the AFL-CIO will be calling on lawmakers not to pass proposals that would slash benefits under Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The memo comes as the congressional task force, known as the “supercommittee,” begins its job of coming up with at least $1.5 trillion in government spending cuts this fall.

“The AFL-CIO believes that while Congress should focus first and foremost on solving the jobs crisis, the national debt can be stabilized in the long term in ways that will not make the immediate jobs crisis worse and addresses the real causes of our long-term fiscal imbalance,” Omens writes in the memo.

The labor federation says the supercommittee should oppose any benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and also require a score by the Congressional Budget Office on the jobs impact of every proposal considered by the panel, as proposed by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

In addition, healthcare costs can be brought under control without cutting benefits, according to the AFL-CIO. It proposes establishing a government-run insurance program known as “the public option,” which the group estimates could save $88 billion over 10 years; allowing prescription drugs to be re-imported, saving $11 billion over 10 years; and having Medicare negotiate drug prices, saving $200 billion over 10 years, among its suggestions.

Calling them “progressive tax revenue proposals,” the AFL-CIO also recommends a number of tax hikes on the wealthy and the financial-services sector to pare down the debt. That would include a financial transactions tax, saving more than $1 trillion over 10 years; a millionaires’ surtax, saving more than $400 billion over 10 years; and taxing capital gains as ordinary income, equaling savings of more than $168 billion over 10 years.

The AFL-CIO also recommends drawing down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, saving more than $1.2 trillion, using figures from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget resolution.

The AFL-CIO says the supercommittee should refrain from cutting any more pay or benefits for federal workers, considering they have lost $60 billion over 10 years as the result of a federal pay freeze, according to the labor federation’s estimate.

“Any further cuts to pay, health insurance and retirement benefits will harm the livelihood of federal and postal employees, make it much harder to attract qualified candidates for federal jobs and further hurt our economic recovery,” Omens writes in the memo.

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