Friday, July 27, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - July 27, 2012

July 27, 2012
65,000 SSA Employees to Face 6-Week Furloughs if Sequestration Hits: About 65,000 Social Security Administration (SSA) would face six weeks of furloughs if automatic spending cuts take place in January, according to a new report by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies. The sequester would cut SSA’s administrative budget by $890 million in fiscal 2013. That means SSA would also lose 5,000 employees through attrition and a loss of temporary hires. About 15,000 state Disability Determination Service employees who make initial determinations on applications would also face six weeks of furloughs. Closing of field offices would increase the disability claim processing time from 111 days to 180 for the 3.2 million Americans who will file claims. The backlog of disability claims would double from 861,000 in fiscal 2012 to nearly 1.5 million by the end of fiscal 2013. 

According to the report, cuts to major Education and HHS programs would mean 37,000 jobs lost. Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration would lose 81 inspectors who wouldn’t be able to conduct 2,100 inspections on the most dangerous workplaces.  

“Some members of Congress warn that defense contracting firms will lay off employees if sequestration goes into effect. They say nothing of the tens of thousands of teachers, police officers, and other public servants in communities all across America who would also lose their jobs. A laid-off teacher is just as unemployed as a laid-off defense contractor,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, chair of the subcommittee that oversees the budgets for SSA, Labor, Education and HHS. 

“Letting the tax cuts expire for the top 2 percent will provide enough revenues to offset the need for sequestration cuts,” said AFGE President John Gage. “Enough with these wild attacks on the government and the American middle class.”

Senate Votes to Extend Tax Cuts to Middle Class: The Senate this week passed a bill that would extend the Bush tax cuts for income up to $250,000. The bill is unlikely to pass the House because right-wing lawmakers are pushing to extend the Bush tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. Right-wing lawmakers in the Senate also agreed to a simple majority vote because tax laws have to originate in the House of Representatives.

“The only reason we won't block [the bill] today is that we know it doesn't pass constitutional muster and won't become law," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “What today's votes are all about,” he continued, is “showing the people who sent us here where we stand.”

Despite Wall St. Frauds, House Lawmakers Approve Bills to Freeze Regulations: If the recent Wall Street frauds that led to the economic mess we’re in means anything, it means we should have more oversight, not less. But not to the right-wing lawmakers backed by rich Wall Street and K Street campaign donors. House lawmakers this week passed a series of anti-regulation bills including H.R. 4078 that would prevent federal agencies from taking any significant regulatory action, including those in areas such as finance, environment and manufacturing, until unemployment drops from the current 8% to 6%. H.R. 4078 was introduced by Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas, who maintains that regulations destroy jobs – the claim that, even though it fits perfectly into their misinformation campaign about government overreach, is not true. There are very few layoffs that are caused by regulations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   

But don’t let facts get in the way of your talking points. In supporting the regulation freeze, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa of California called federal employees – whose job, ironically, is to implement the laws passed by him and his colleagues – “bureaucrats” and blamed them for preventing businesses from growing. But not everyone is buying the lie.

“Sadly, the [right wing] are trying to shut down the regulatory process that protects the health and safety of hundreds of millions of Americans,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House oversight panel. “This goes to the heart and essence of life as we know it in America.” 
Environment, health, and consumer groups are appalled by the efforts to weaken regulations.
“This broadside attack on regulations is the latest in a series of legislative proposals designed to mislead the public into believing that our country’s long-established system of health and safety protections must be dismantled to encourage job growth,” Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said. “Public and private experts, business owners and a majority of economists have repeatedly stated that the U.S. regulatory system is good for business and does not impede job growth.”
OPM Extends Health Coverage to Children of Feds’ Same-Sex Partners: Children of same-sex domestic partners of federal employees will receive health coverage under a new proposed regulation. According to OPM’s new rule published in Federal Register on July 20, these children would be defined as stepchildren, making them eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. OPM is accepting comments until Sept. 18.

Right Wing’s “Tax Hike Prevention Act” Won’t Prevent Tax Hikes on Middle Class: True to their usual dishonest, misleading way, right-wing leaders in the Senate – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – have introduced a bill “Tax Hike Prevention Act” that would extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone including the millionaires and billionaires for another year, among other things. The Bush tax cuts, which are worth $5 trillion over the next decade and disproportionately benefit the rich, expire at the end of the year. Right wing lawmakers argue forcefully that the American people shouldn’t be burdened with tax hikes when the economy is still sluggish. But the rhetoric falls flat when they explicitly state that their Tax Hike Prevent Act won’t prevent other tax cuts that benefit mostly the middle class from expiring. These are the tax cuts that the President demanded in the stimulus and renewed in 2010 like the payroll tax cuts and the expanded child tax credit that if expire would mean an average tax hike of $843 for 13 million families. Their reason is simple and absurd: what the President passed into law is considered stimulus, not a tax cut, according to what Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California told the New York Times. 

New Study Finds Anti-Black Attitudes Go Hand in Hand with Support for Voter ID Laws: According to a new poll by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communications, support for controversial voter ID laws are strongest among those with the highest levels of racial resentment toward African Americans. The link between anti-black attitudes and support for the voter ID laws persists even after control for partisanship, ideology and a range of other demographic variables. This confirms what AFGE and other civil rights groups have been saying all along – that the right wing’s voter ID laws are designed to suppress voter turnout. The findings also support recent comments by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who said voter ID laws are like poll taxes used in the Jim Crow era to block African Americans from voting.

“These findings suggest that Americans’ attitudes about race play an important role in driving their views on voter ID laws,” said Paul Brewer, the center’s associate director for research.

This Week’s Interview: On The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Nobel Prize-winning economist and author Joseph Stiglitz explains why America is the most unequal of the advanced industrial countries.
This Week’s Tweet: “Paradox: It's of course true that individual success depends on successful working of society. Not v many self-made entrepreneurs in Somalia” ~ @davidfrum  

This Week in Labor history: July 27, 2007 – Rep. Nita Lowey introduced H.R. 3212, the first stand-alone bill that would grant TSA officers collective bargaining rights.
Hot on YouTube: How to Walk Your Human 

Inside Government:  Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” to learn about a new Bureau of Prisons (BOP) policy that will arm federal correctional officers with pepper spray. The show, which originally aired on Friday, July 13, is now available on demand. AFGE Council of Prison Locals President Dale Deshotel detailed the new BOP pilot program that will allow correctional officers in seven facilities to carry pepper spray, a move AFGE has supported for years. But first, Betsy Myers, former Clinton White House senior advisor and chief operating officer for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, discussed her book, “Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You.” Myers, now the founding director of Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, shed light on her seven core leadership principles to increase productivity and success. lastly, AFGE VA Local 1988 Executive Vice President Geddes Scott provided an inside look at the union’s Young Organizing Unionists for the Next Generation (Y.O.U.N.G.) program and encouraged all AFGE members to participate in the program.
Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online
Quote of the Week
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on how federal employees and their agencies are to blame for the sluggish economy:
“Bureaucrats and red tape are putting the brakes on job creators who want to invest and grow their businesses.” 

American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO 80 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 | Tel. (202) 737-8700 | Fax (202) 639-6492

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