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What's at Stake Tuesday

October 29, 2010

This entry by AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee is cross-posted from The Huffington Post and Firedoglake.

The conventional wisdom in Washington right now is that the Republicans are about to take back the House, and possibly the Senate. That would be awful news for every American who believes that government should protect the interests of American working families rather than international corporate interests. And it is certainly a nightmare for the young people, minorities, union members and progressives who made history two years ago by electing Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Nobel Prize winner and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman notes today that Republican control could have dangerous long-term consequences. “In fact,” he writes, “future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.”

Anyone who remembers the eight years of George W. Bush should know that now is not the time to play six-bullet Russian roulette with the future. Every vote for the GOP only makes it more likely that they will continue to stand in the way of the kind of reforms Americans support, such as real penalties on corporations that outsource American jobs. Unfortunately, too few voters – particularly independent voters – have gotten that message. We need to be sure over these last few days that we let them know what is really on the ballot Tuesday.

When talking with AFSCME members across the country, I have focused on four issues that I believe have helped to energize them to get active this campaign season: Jobs, Social Security, Retirement and Medicare. How we respond to the challenges posed by these issues will be determined on November 2nd. Here’s why:

American jobs are on the ballot. If Republicans gain power in either the House or the Senate, they will have a much stronger hand in their efforts to give corporations the power to lay off American workers and send our jobs to foreign countries. This has been a GOP priority for years, yet too few independents are aware of it. Remind them that just this August, all but two Republicans in the House voted against reforms to eliminate tax loopholes for companies that outsource American jobs. Just two. Now they want to take control of the entire House.

Social Security is on the ballot. The same politicians who have spent a generation bad-mouthing Social Security now say they want to improve it by privatizing it and giving Wall Street the ability to manage the nation’s retirement security. Republicans from coast-to-coast have made it clear that they have big plans to overhaul Social Security in the coming congressional session. Their candidates for the U.S. Senate in Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky and other states have called for the eventual elimination of Social Security, the greatest program of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Nevada’s Sharon Angle says Social Security – along with Medicare and Aid to Families with Depended Children – is part of America’s “wicked ways.” She and her fellow Republicans would place our retirement security at risk in the stock market.

Contrary to what the Republican privateers want people to believe, Social Security is healthy. It did not cause the deficit. It has a $2.6 trillion surplus. But Republicans want to take it and hand it away to their backers on Wall Street. We cannot let them do this.

Retirement is on the ballot. John Boehner, Wall Street’s favorite member of the House, has already announced his plans to push the retirement age up to 70. As many know, or should, Boehner would be named Speaker of the House if the Republicans win. He spends many hours each week playing golf with his buddies – the Washington corporate lobbyists. They finance his campaigns and give him checks to distribute to other Republicans on the floor of the House of Representatives. He has no problem asking bricklayers, firefighters, road crews and nurses to keep working until they are 70 to qualify for their full Social Security benefits. And he has no problem allowing corporate lobbyists to write the legislation he’ll push through the House as speaker.

Medicare is on the ballot. Rep. Paul Ryan, who will head up the Budget Committee if the Republicans win Tuesday, has already announced his plan to end Medicare as we know it. He would turn it into a voucher program. Republicans would wreck a program that has successfully provided health security for millions of Americans – for more than forty years – solely to give insurance companies more opportunities to make a buck.

Indeed, they would make unconscionable cuts in other programs that millions of Americans rely on, including veterans’ benefits, children’s health programs, cancer research and food safety. They plan to turn back the clock on environmental protection, women’s rights and the cause of equality for LGBT Americans. Their views are far from mainstream, yet if they gain control of Congress, they could cause untold damage to the lives of countless millions in our country. They have outlined some of their plans in the so-called Pledge to America, which they released to great fan-fare a few weeks ago. Today, few GOP candidates are discussing what’s in the Pledge to America, because they know voters would reject the radical cuts in important programs that the Pledge seeks to hide.

Paul Krugman sees danger ahead with Republican policies: “If they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.”

Tuesday’s elections can save us from the bleak future that awaits working families if the GOP takes control. It is a day when working Americans can stand up to the corporate special interest who control Wall Street and too much of Capitol Hill and elect champions of the middle class to Congress. It’s not too late. Call your friends and neighbors and let them know what’s at stake on Tuesday, November 2nd.

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Previous: Setting the Record Straight

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