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PROTECTING THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SAFETY NET

WHEREAS:

            Recognizing that only the government was in a position to protect Americans from the ravages of the Great Depression, the New Deal planners created Social Security and Unemployment Insurance, programs in which all individuals, regardless of income, receive benefits, and  Aid to Families with Dependent Children, helping only poor families; and

WHEREAS:

            During the 1960’s, when it was recognized that widespread poverty was harmful to our nation, Medicare was established to provide health insurance for the elderly and disabled regardless of income, and other means-tested programs for the poor were also created, including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP known at the time as the Food Stamps Program); and

WHEREAS:

            The poverty rate in the U.S. would have been nearly twice as high in 2010 without safety net programs, such as SNAP, which kept 5 million out of poverty, and unemployment insurance, which pulled 3.2 million people above the poverty line; and

WHEREAS:

            State governments rely on federal funds for approximately 30 percent of their budgets, and much of that is spent on these safety net programs administered at both the state and local levels; and

WHEREAS:

            State and local budgets are still recovering from the Great Recession, which caused tax receipts to plummet at the same time that the unemployment rate, the poverty rate and the need for government help increased; and

WHEREAS:

            The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided state and local governments with critically needed, but temporary,  funding, totaling at least $210 billion for their Medicaid, child support, foster care, education, infrastructure, and public safety programs; and

WHEREAS:

            Additional critically needed aid has not been forthcoming because of the misplaced focus in Congress on federal budget deficit reduction, which  is creating havoc with  state and local budgets and the programs and services they provide, and hampering economic recovery; and

WHEREAS:

            AFSCME members on the front lines are delivering services and ensuring that  vulnerable individuals and families receive the assistance they need, including health care, cash benefits, nutrition assistance, housing assistance, unemployment insurance, child care, Head Start, child support and child welfare services; and

WHEREAS:

            The loss of over 650,000 state and local government jobs and the furloughs of millions of workers have caused immeasurable hardship for AFSCME members and other public employees, created unmanageable caseloads for remaining employees, led to difficult conditions for those who need the safety net and created a drag on our economy, even though jobs in the private sector are increasing; and

WHEREAS:

            Congress passed the draconian Budget Control Act of 2011, which will only exacerbate these problems.  It caps federal spending and requires across-the-board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion from domestic and defense spending by the end of 2012, if budget savings equal to that amount are not achieved earlier;  and

WHEREAS:

            If such across-the-board cuts are implemented, it is estimated that non-defense programs will lose approximately 9 percent of their federal funding, despite the fact that federal spending is on a path to its lowest level since the Eisenhower administration; and

WHEREAS:

            Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget proposal, which passed the House of Representatives, would redistribute income to the wealthy and increase poverty and inequality, more than any budget in modern U.S. history; and

WHEREAS:

            The Rebuild America Act (S. 2252), introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Bruce Braley (D-IA), creates a trust fund to provide resources to retain or hire teachers, police officers, firefighters and other local government employees; rebuild our infrastructure; modernize our schools; expand and improve child care and expand job training in growing sectors of the economy; and

WHEREAS:

            It raises the minimum wage to $9.80 per hour over three years, strengthens overtime protections for white-collar workers, provides for paid sick leave, improves Social Security benefits and strengthens the private sector pension system; and

WHEREAS:

            The Bush tax cuts had drained $3 trillion from the federal treasury through 2011 and indefensible corporate tax breaks and loopholes also reduce federal revenues that are needed to fully fund state-and locally-administered safety net programs and other critical services.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

            It is time for America to once again recognize that widespread poverty is harmful to our nation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME will work with our allies to end Congress’ misplaced focus on cutting deficits and instead call on Congress to increase funding for safety net programs so that recipients can live in dignity and the workers who provide this assistance are assured of sufficient staffing to do their jobs effectively; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME will lead the fight to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and close corporate tax loopholes.  We will support new tax policies--such as the “Buffett Rule,” requiring millionaires to pay at least 30 percent of their income in federal taxes, and a financial transaction tax--so that everyone pays a fair share of taxes; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME opposes the across-the-board cuts in the Budget Control Act and the misplaced priorities in the Ryan budget proposal; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

            That AFSCME supports S. 2252 and will work with our allies at the national and local levels to advocate for its passage; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED:

            The federal government cannot walk away from the most vulnerable.  AFSCME, along with our allies, will fight to protect and strengthen social and economic safety net programs and ensure that they have the resources required to serve all who need them.

SUBMITTED BY:     International Executive Board

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