In prepared remarks given in advance to the Huffington Post, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka warns Democrats against accepting any budget deal that includes cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, and even goes so far as to threaten to end the career of any politician who fails to heed his call.
"No politician … I don’t care the political party … will get away with cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Don’t try it," Trumka says, according to the Huffington Post. "This warning goes double for Democrats," he continues. "We will never forget. We will never forgive. And we will never stop working to end your career."
While Trumka has previously made a point of distancing the AFL-CIO from Democrats, his speech nevertheless is one of the more high profile signs of potential schisms in the Democratic Party's coalition. The AFL-CIO opposes two significant provisions in President Obama's 2014 budget: "chained CPI" — and adjustment in how Social Security measures inflation that would amount to a benefit cut — and means testing for some Medicare recipients.
It isn't clear yet how entitlement cuts will figure in the post-shutdown budget talks, but it's possible they'll become part a new "grand bargain" discussion on Capitol Hill.
Saying he had a "sinking feeling that too many politicians are ready to put the hurt on regular working people," Trumka argued that lawmakers should be increasingSocial Security payments rather than cutting them. He said we live in a time of "self-imposed scarcity" that's driven by "fear" rather than logic.
"Millions of Americans are afraid Social Security might not be there for them," Trumka said. "We cannot listen to that fear and believe Social Security is the problem. It isn’t. The fear is. Instead of cutting Social Security, which will make the fear come true, we should, as a nation, invest in Social Security. Increase benefits."