If Congress approves President Obama’s budget proposal, it will mark the beginning of the end for the social insurance model that the labor movement and its allies have spent generations establishing and defending. This is the first time that a sitting Democratic President has proposed cuts in Social Security and Medicare. But it won’t be the last. As every shop steward knows, once you agree to put a cherished provision on the table, you open it up to an endless series of cuts and concessions.
For working people, these cuts couldn’t come at a worse time. Many have had their life savings decimated by the Great Recession and the collapse of the housing bubble. Social Security provides two-thirds of the income for a typical retiree. And it will get even worse for the next generation that the politicians always claim they are so concerned about. 51% of current workers are not covered by any employer pension or 401 (k) program and 34% have absolutely no retirement savings. The budget also would cut veteran’s benefits and federal employee pensions and other benefits.