Congressman Barney Frank joins labor leaders, worker and seniors in urging Senator Kerry to oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
Panel to Kerry: “Don’t sacrifice Massachusetts families for a partisan agenda”
Labor leaders, workers and advocates for the senior, disabled and immigrant communities took to the soapbox yesterday in testifying about the serious impact of cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare at a community forum with Congressman Barney Frank at the Greater Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council’s offices in New Bedford on Thursday night. As a congressional deficit supercommittee struggles to reach an agreement on how to strip over $1.2 trillion from the federal budget, community members called on Senator Kerry, a member of the supercommittee, to oppose any and all cuts to the safety-net programs.
“Just a few months ago, Senator Kerry vowed that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Now he’s called for compromise with Republicans and laid Medicare and Medicaid on the chopping block,” said Cynthia Rodrigues, president of the Greater Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council. “We’re here to tell Senator Kerry to stand strong for his constituents and workers all across New England. The revenue crisis should not be solved on the backs of seniors, workers, people with disabilities and children.”
James Pimental, president of Bricklayers Local 3, explained that cuts to Medicare will take a deep toll on workers in high-risk occupations. “Most construction workers are busted up by the time they’re 55. We can’t afford to make workers like them work another 12 years and deny them medical insurance even longer. But we’re asking them to sacrifice their health – at the same time that the real culprit, medical inflation, is running rampant. We have to rein in the costs of medical inflation, not Social Security and Medicare. And the present members of Congress – present company excluded – need to understand that revenue increases have to be part of the equation.”
Following the panel’s remarks, Congressman Barney Frank told the audience that the public narrative around entitlement cuts must be readjusted. “In area after area, we are spending too much and then being told that we must cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Before Social Security and in some cases before Medicare, most people who lived to 75 or 80 could expect to be poor. The middle class’s constant fear of poverty in old age did not go away until we got Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Congressman Frank said.
“Let’s be honest – there’s room for tax increases. The millionare’s tax is not a tax on people making $5 million or $6 million a year – it’s a tax on annual income over a million dollars.For every thousand you make over a million dollars, you owe the government 56 dollars. That’s not going to have any impact on jobs, and that’s not going to have an impact on consumer spending. But it will have a tremendous impact on our revenue problem.”
In recent weeks, labor leaders across Massachusetts have expressed increasing dismay over Senator Kerry’s ambiguous position. The president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Steven Tolman, stated earlier this week that labor may be “parting ways” with the Senator on the subject of entitlement cuts. The committee has until November 23rd to reach an agreement on how to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.
The Southeastern Central Labor Council is one of twenty-seven affiliated labor bodies in Massachusetts to have issued resolutions to Senator Kerry urging him to stand strong against proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, including the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and all eleven central labor councils. Congressmen Jim McGovern, Bill Keating, and Richard Neal have also urged Senator Kerry to oppose cuts to these crucial safety net programs.