Congress is closing in on reaching a short-term deal that would return federal workers to their jobs and end the Republican-led threat of allowing the U.S. to default on its debts. That is good news for all of us, but especially for millions of public and private sector workers nationwide who have been affected by this government shutdown.
But behind the details of the proposed agreement that would keep the government open until Jan. 15 and extend the debt limit until Feb. 7 is the reality that our government will be funded at a significantly reduced level than it should be until then because of sequester cuts that went into effect last year. And even more worrisome, the new postponed deadlines are right around when the next round of deep cuts are scheduled to take effect, jeopardizing even more government programs that hard-working Americans are dependent on.
Any joy tied to this potential budget should be short-lived. Domestic programs such as Head Start and housing vouchers provided to low-income families paid the price last year as part of $22 billion in non-military cuts. Now, as part of fiscal year 2014, an additional $21 billion in federal spending is slated to be cut. Most of that is supposed to be a slash in defense-related programs, but House Republicans would like to see that shifted to domestic programs instead.
The billion-dollar question is why should regular Americans have to shoulder this burden alone? Those who work hard for a living trying to put food on the table and keep a roof over their families heads are already struggling due to millions of jobs that have been given away as part of lousy trade agreements like NAFTA and replaced with low-wage service jobs.
Instead, wouldn’t it make more sense to go after a plethora of companies like Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Oracle, IBM, Pfizer, Chevron, Exxon Mobile and Berkshire Hathaway who are hoarding more than $1.7 trillion in unused cash instead of investing it into the economy? Why aren’t they being asked to pay more at a time when lawmakers are looking for ways to strengthen the nation’s economic ledger?
Workers, as usual, are being seen by GOP lawmakers as a convenient target to pay America’s bills. This, despite the fact that the federal deficit has been slashed by more than half since the last recession. The U.S. should be investing in creating good jobs that will get people back to work earning good wages. But instead it is making life more difficult for them.
In a Huffington Post piece last week, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said it is unconscionable that corporate America is soaring while working Americans are struggling. “It's no accident that real wages have declined while executive pay and corporate profits have climbed rapidly,” he wrote. “There is simply no excuse for it.”
Well Congress, there is also no excuse to force regular people barely eking out a living to pay the nation’s bills, especially when it isn’t in the country’s best interest to do so. If lawmakers are looking for someone to pay up, they should have a conversation with their corporate cronies.