House-Senate Budget Agreement Continues Austerity Policies Targeting Working Families

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Posted Dec. 18, 2013

Interview with Laura MacCleery, legislative director, National Nurses United Union, conducted by Scott Harris

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Congressional negotiators Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate and Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington produced a budget agreement that was applauded in the corporate press as a cease-fire between the nation’s two warring political parties and modest progress toward bipartisanship. Their budget bill, which easily passed in the House and handily avoided the threat of a filibuster in the Senate, assuring its passage, would cancel half the across-the-board, automatic sequester spending cuts totaling $63 billion for the current fiscal year. The proposed budget, which avoids a government shutdown in January, makes $85 billion in additional cuts, which results in $23 billion in net deficit reduction over the next decade.

But critics of the deal point to the fact that the budget ends federal unemployment insurance benefits to 1.3 million long-term jobless Americans, which kicks in three days after Christmas. Others unhappy with the Ryan-Murray budget plan point to proposed cuts that will hit federal workers and members of the military who will be forced to increase monthly payments toward their retirement benefits.

What seems obvious to most observers is that the sacrifice called for in this budget impacts those who can least afford it, while nothing is asked of the nation’s wealthiest citizens in the form of increased taxes or the closure of lucrative tax loopholes. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Laura MacCleery, legislative director with the National Nurses United Union, who assesses the lack of fairness she sees in the House-Senate budget plan, and alternatives to the continued national focus on austerity measures.

Find more analysis and commentary on federal budget priorities by visiting National Nurses United Union at nationalnursesunited.org/.

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