“Grand bargain” in Congress?

Tom ChamberlainBy Tom Chamberlain, Oregon AFL-CIO president 

As I write this article, the president and Congress are working to reopen government and raise the debt ceiling. Most suspect that a “Grand Bargain” will be reached in the next week.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of public employees have been unpaid and sit idly at home and wait; millions of Americans haven’t received the federal benefits they qualify for; highway funds have dried up and construction projects stopped, leaving thousands more without work; federal regulatory agencies are working at minimum staffing levels.

Whether you realize it or not, every American has been impacted.

The shutdown was failed political brinksmanship at the expense of our nation, at the expense of working men and women, at the expense of families, at the expense of the disabled, the elderly, and poor.

Rest assured that when the “Grand Bargain” is reached, businesses and the wealthy will be held harmless. They may even come out ahead, seeing their share of supporting our nation reduced.

The “Grand Bargain” will tell the rest of us — those whose jobs and livelihoods have been affected, that to end the shutdown we must take on other burdens — to pay.  The 99 percent will see more promises reneged on, and a continuing of decades of unraveling America’s already tattered social safety net.

This is a pessimistic prediction, for sure. It is based on three decades of an increasingly pro-business pro-wealth agenda based on the premise that if you decrease federal, state, and local funding responsibilities for the 1 percent, jobs will be created.  This agenda believes that we can build the middle class from the top down. It is Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down economic strategy on steroids.

This strategy didn’t work for a 1980s America, and after three decades of shifting more and more funding responsibility from the 1 percent to the 99 percent, it should be clear that this is nothing short of a disastrous policy for our nation.

Oregon reached its own “Grand Bargain” this month, raising much- needed funding for public education. Part of the funding package included a tax increase from wealthy seniors and some businesses. But the lion’s share of the revenue came from state and local retirees and future retirees — Oregonians who, on average, receive less than $30,000 per year in retirement.

The Oregonian newspaper —and almost all of the business associations in the state — mounted months of campaigning focusing on the PERS $1 million Club: those few PERS retirees, such as retired University of Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti, who earn over $500,000 per year. This campaign was designed to create political leverage to reduce PERS benefits far below what was agreed to in contract.

This classic diversionary strategy changed the focus to reducing the cost of government, rather than looking at who is paying for government. They were successful, and took a Grand Bargain victory lap across the media.

There was no mention of the sacrifice of the hard-working Oregonians who will collectively forgo billions in promised retiree benefits in our effort to increase funding to state and local governments.

“Grand bargains” equate to business give-aways and worker take-aways.  After 30 years of economic and funding policies that have resulted in fewer middle-class jobs and less funding for essential programs, while trying to appease the 1%ers with more and more incentives, history has taught working families when they hear government is trying to reach a “Grand Bargain,” it is time to hold onto your wallets very tightly.

History has taught us that no Grand Bargain is on working peoples’ side.

1 Comment on “Grand bargain” in Congress?

  1. Absolutely right. I hope the people will take action, and “primary” all the so called Democrats who voted for this junk.

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