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The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

Resolution No. 68

WHEREAS:

In February, President Obama signed an executive order creating the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which will make recommendations to Congress by December 1 on how to reduce annual federal deficits to below 3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015; and

WHEREAS:
In announcing the commission, President Obama said all areas of the federal budget will be on the table, including taxes, military spending and benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare; and

WHEREAS:
Commission recommendations will be sent to Congress if they are approved by 14 of the 18 members, including six appointed by the President (four plus two co-chairs), three appointed by the Senate Democratic Majority, three appointed by the Senate Republican Minority, three appointed by the House Democratic Majority and three appointed by the House Republican Minority; and

WHEREAS:
The leaders of the House and Senate have agreed to vote on any commission-approved package of  recommendations before the end of the current Congress, most likely in a post-election “lame duck” session that will limit their accountability to constituents; and

WHEREAS:
Many of the commissioners hold conservative views on budget issues and say they will  focus attention on “reforming” so-called “entitlement” programs that help average Americans, rather than consider tax increases for wealthy Americans who can afford to pay more; and

WHEREAS:
The commission co-chairs – North Carolina Democrat Erskine Bowles and former Republican U.S. Senator  Alan Simpson of Wyoming –  have both stated that cutting Social Security is the best way  to reduce the nation’s debt, with Simpson also guilty of a long record of attacks on Social Security and senior citizen organizations; and
 
WHEREAS:
Social Security should not be considered in the context of deficit reduction, as it does not contribute to the federal deficit, currently has a $2.4 trillion surplus and, according to its trustees, will be able to pay all scheduled benefits for the next 30 years; and

WHEREAS:
Social Security is the nation’s primary income protection and anti-poverty program.  Its dependable benefit checks help stabilize the economy in times of high unemployment and provide critical income to millions of retired workers, disabled workers and their families, and the spouses and children of deceased workers; and

WHEREAS:
Social Security’s guaranteed benefits will be even more important in the future, due to the decline of traditional pensions and the proven unreliability of private retirement accounts; and

WHEREAS:
Nearly all Americans over 65 and millions of disabled persons depend on Medicare for their basic health insurance coverage; and

WHEREAS:
The recently enacted health care reform law includes numerous cost-containment measures designed to reduce Medicare’s future costs and its percentage of GDP, without cutting guaranteed benefits; and

WHEREAS:
 Wall Street tycoon Peter G. Peterson has funded a self-named foundation with over a billion dollars of his own money in order to build public support for his long term goal –  reducing the role of federal social insurance programs in the name of “fiscal responsibility” and the additional accumulation of private capital; and

WHEREAS:
Data from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office shows that most of the federal budget deficits projected over the next decade result from President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the effects of the worst recession since the 1930s; and spiraling health care costs that have already been addressed through health care reform.
 
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
That AFSCME will carefully watch the deliberations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, calling for public meetings and field hearings that  let advocacy groups and the American people speak out on benefit programs and deficit reduction; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:
That AFSCME believes that fiscal responsibility begins with acknowledging that Americans depend on the vital services and programs that the federal government provides and determining what revenues are needed to pay for them. We urge the commission to thoroughly examine revenue options; and 

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED:
That AFSCME will oppose efforts by the commission or Congress to make cuts in Social Security and Medicare the vehicle for deficit reduction, and will mobilize members in a grassroots campaign to protect these vital benefit programs from unfair and unwise cutbacks.
 
 
SUBMITTED BY:  
INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE BOARD