Week Ending November 11, 2011
Two Weeks Until the Super Committee’s Deadline
As time is running out for the deficit reduction committee, or the “super committee,” to produce a plan by November 23, Republicans and Democrats again traded and rejected proposals for deficit reduction plans. The Republican plan claimed to include increased revenues, so that the $1.2 billion savings required by the Budget Control Act would not have to come exclusively from program cuts. But their claim is false. The “revenues” are actually cuts in disguise and could jeopardize working families’ employer-sponsored health care benefits. These “revenues” do not require that wealthy Americans and corporations pay additional taxes to contribute their fair share. Although the plan might close some corporate tax loopholes, it would reduce corporate tax rates and the top rate on America’s highest earners substantially from 35% to 28%. Further, the proposed change in the way inflation is calculated to determine Social Security benefits would actually cut Social Security benefits. The plan also cuts Medicare and Medicaid. No deal would be better than this raw deal.
The Democratic offer put more taxes on the table, but still did not represent an equal share of higher taxes to program cuts. Their deal also included beneficiary cuts in Medicare and approximately $50 billion in Medicaid cuts. Both deals were rejected, and it does not appear that the two sides are moving toward compromise. AFSCME strongly opposes any deal that would harm Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and that fails to make corporations and wealthy Americans pay their fair share of taxes.
Balanced Budget Amendment Vote Next Week
Next week, the House is planning to vote, as required by the Budget Control Act passed in August, on a version of a balanced budget amendment (BBA) to the U.S. Constitution. It is unclear which version of the amendment it will be. Regardless of the specifics, any BBA, whether it includes spending caps or a super majority vote to raise taxes, would have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy. It would put the country in an economic straitjacket, making it impossible to address changing economic circumstances, crippling the ability of the federal government to operate, and hurting Americans struggling through hard economic times.
Further, all BBAs that have been discussed would require a super majority to raise the debt ceiling. A very difficult battle occurred in Congress this summer over this issue, and that vote only required a simple majority. After months of delay, an increase was finally agreed to, but only after it was held hostage to unreasonable demands by Tea Party Republicans. A super majority requirement would enable unreasonable demands by a small minority in Congress to jeopardize our nation’s economy and credit-ratings. AFSCME is strongly opposing any balanced budget amendment.
Unemployment Insurance Extension Introduced in Congress
Members of both the Senate and House introduced The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2011 (S. 1804/H.R. 3346) in early November. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is the Senate sponsor; Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) is the House sponsor. This legislation will prevent over six million jobless Americans from losing their unemployment benefits by continuing the federal program through 2012. It will provide critical support to help middle and working class families pay their bills, put food on the table, and take care of their families. While we struggle to break through the partisan logjam blocking the President’s jobs legislation, we must immediately address the crisis that millions of unemployed workers face as their emergency benefits are about to run out. The bill additionally provides states with loan repayment relief for their unemployment insurance trust funds.
More than 2.2 Million Seniors Save $1.2 Billion on Rx Thanks to Affordable Care Act
An important provision in the Affordable Care Act requires drug companies to provide a 50% discount on covered name drugs for Medicare beneficiaries who are in the Medicare prescription drug gap, called the donut hole. So far this year, more than 2.2 million Medicare recipients have saved more than $1.2 billion on their prescriptions, for an average of $550 per person. Coverage in the donut hole will progressively increase each year until the coverage gap closes in 2020. In addition, more than 22.6 million seniors and people with disabilities have taken advantage of at least one free Medicare preventive benefit made possible by the Affordable Care Act, including diabetes screening, cancer screenings, and help quitting smoking.
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