A not-so-grand bargain

To find out more about the Strengthening America's Values and Economy for All campaign and the Coalition on Human Needs, visit www.chn.org. To learn more about the Democratic Socialists of America, visit www.dsausa.org.
Duane Campbell is the chair of the Sacramento Democratic Socialists of America and an emeritus professor of bilingual/multicultural education at Sacramento State University

A recent Sacramento Bee editorial called for smaller steps to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” Then, strangely, it listed small steps that only call for compromise as advocated by the Republican’s austerity proposal.

We do not need more austerity. If you want some small steps, President Barack Obama suggested extending the Bush-era tax reductions for the bottom 98 percent of earners. This is a proposal that almost everyone agrees with. Let’s disagree over cuts for the top 2 percent and work out a compromise.

We should immediately reauthorize funding for extended unemployment benefits to prevent 1.5 million workers and their dependents from losing their benefits. California has received federal funds of more than $5 billion for extended unemployment insurance. If these funds are cut, it could well throw California back into a recession.

We should reject the fiscal-cliff hysteria of the corporate establishment and its pressure for a “grand bargain” that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. If the government imposes austerity measures and reduces essential programs that benefit the middle and working classes, it further shreds the safety net for the most vulnerable.

We should oppose the notion that some “unified” fiscal cliff must be addressed in the lame-duck session of Congress. It is, in fact, a “fiscal obstacle course” that Congress should address without panic early in 2013, while heeding the election results.

More than 200 community organizations in the Strengthening America’s Values and Economy for All campaign of the Coalition on Human Needs, along with organized labor, are mobilizing their members and allies to protect low-income and vulnerable people; promote job creation to strengthen the economy; increase revenues from fair sources; and seek responsible savings by targeting wasteful spending in the Pentagon and in other areas that do not serve the public interest.

Readers should join this work and call on lame-duck members of Congress to follow these principles as they face budgetary decisions of immediate, long-lasting national consequence. We cannot promote the common good by cutting ever more services and jobs.

So, slow down. Don’t panic. We need to deal with the fiscal problems but not with the cruel austerity being imposed upon Greece, Spain and Portugal. Even Great Britain is returning to a recession. Austerity does not work.