For two years, we have had continual crises with debt ceilings, budget resolutions, and really big scary numbers. Already, there have been serious cuts in federal domestic spending -- $1.5 trillion over 10 years. At the state and local level, federal cuts have reduced funds by 13% to 35% in programs like job training, WIC, adult ed, special ed, job training, and public housing maintenance.
Now, we are faced with a Spring Calendar of Crises. Here's what's ahead.
March 1 -- Sequester -- Across the board cuts in almost all programs: WIC, housing and heating assistance, medical research, national parks, education, weather service, funds for local government, Head Start, food safety inspections -- and much more. These cuts will cost one to two million jobs.
March 27 -- Continuing Resolution to allow government to operate through September.
April 15 -- Congressional budget deadline for year beginning October 1.
May 18 -- Debt Ceiling. If Congress is blocked from acting, the government can't pay its bills.
Meanwhile, the American people face a different sort of crisis.
American working people face an immediate jobs crisis: One in seven is unemployed or under-employed.
American working families face declining living standards, with wage freezes and benefit cuts.
American working people are facing an ongoing foreclosure crisis, with millions already made homeless while Wall Street criminals continue to pocket billions of dollars from their misery.
American working people face impossible choices in their communities, between raising their own taxes and closing schools, libraries and other services.
Our entire nation faces a long-term crisis as our infrastructure, transportation, and renewable energy continue to fall behind the requirements of a 21st century economy, our youth are denied the education and job experience that will enable them to sustain a productive economy, and far too much of our nation's wealth is squandered in military waste, destructive financial speculation and obscene luxury spending by the top 1%.
Billionaires like hedge fund speculator Peter Peterson, and the CEOs of GE, Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and AT&T, have spent tens of millions to convince the public (and Congress) to ignore these crises. Instead, they tell us horror stories about future deficits, ignoring the real future threats to our economy.
These Wall Street financiers and corporate CEOS, acting through the Republican leadership in Congress, are holding the nation hostage. They demand that we cut everything from food stamps to food safety, from medical research to Medicaid, along with Social Security and Medicare. If we don't give in to their demands, even more drastic cuts and a complete shutdown of government will take place with the sequester, the expiration of the continuing resolution, and the debt ceiling. Each of these gives them a new opportunity to extort further cuts from the people, while preserving the tax breaks and subsidies enjoyed by Big Oil, Big Finance, Big Business and Big Wealth.
The media treat these crises like a sports event. But this is not the time to watch from our living rooms, still less to change the channel. The only way to meet the Spring Calendar of Crisis is to organize and mobilize to pressure Congress. Join with the AFL-CIO (http://www.aflcio.org/Get-Involved/Protect-Our-Future) and scores of other labor, community, and faith-based organizations to demand:
Cancel the sequester (March 1 automatic cuts) unconditionally. No cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or any civilian program that performs a useful function or meets people's needs.
Extend the continuing resolution (March 27) to allow the government to continue to operate at current levels for the remainder of the year.
Permanently repeal the debt ceiling (May 18) to allow the government to pay the bills that Congress has already approved, and avoid future debt ceiling crises.
Pass a new budget for the year beginning October 1 to allow government to function at least at current service levels, with additional funds to create jobs and help state and local governments weather the continuing economic depression.
Close tax loopholes for the 1% and big corporations, shut down tax havens, and begin phased reductions of the military budget, beginning with ending wars, closing foreign bases and bringing the troops and contractors home.
These are only the first, immediate steps. Exactly eighty years ago, the Roosevelt administration began enacting the New Deal, a program that put millions to work, literally saved millions of lives and families, and built roads, power lines, national parks, and public buildings that laid the foundation for decades of economic progress. We need a 21st century New Deal to meet today's challenges for advanced transportation, internet, energy and education. A 21st century New Deal will provide jobs for millions and improve the economic security of all American workers; it will again provide the material foundation for future prosperity.