Five Ways "Speaker Boehner" Would Hurt American Workers

September 05, 2010 11:25 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Labor Day is about more than backyard barbecues.  It is about honoring American workers and remembering how far we have come in expanding opportunity to all kinds of people.  This year, Labor Day comes less than two months before a critical election that will give voters a distinct choice.  While President Obama fights for an economy that serves us all, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and the Republican Party have consistently defended Wall Street, demonized unions, and put big businesses ahead of working Americans.  With that in mind, here are just a few ways that "Speaker Boehner" would hurt American workers if Republicans win the majority in November.

Outsourcing Jobs:  Last month, the House passed a state aid package to prevent hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other workers from losing their jobs.  The bill was paid for in part by closing a tax loophole that rewarded companies for offshoring American jobs.  Amazingly, Boehner disparaged the public servants whose jobs were in jeopardy as "special interests," and led House Republicans in opposing the bill.  In July, House Republicans killed another bill that would have "provided nearly $20 billion in tax relief to small businesses and closed loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas." With "Speaker Boehner" calling the shots, Republicans will fight to protect the profits of multinational corporations at the expense of American workers.   

Taxes:  While Republican lawmakers fight to protect the rich from tax increases, working Americans actually stand to pay higher taxes if Republicans win the majority.  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the ranking member on the budget committee, has proposed a sweeping fiscal plan called the Roadmap For America's Future that would cause the bottom 90 percent of taxpayers to owe more taxes than they would under President Obama's proposals.   Citizens for Tax Justice produced the following chart:

Boehner has attempted to divert attention from Ryan's plan, which would also slash Social Security and Medicare.  However, as the party's leading voice on fiscal matters, Ryan would obviously play a key role in crafting the policies of a Republican majority.  

Health Care:  Despite actually taking credit for parts of the Affordable Care Act, Boehner has joined an effort led by far-right Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to repeal the new health care law in its entirety — including provisions that crack down on the worst abuses of insurance companies.  In addition to providing tax relief that will allow more small businesses to offer health benefits, the Affordable Care Act will reduce premiums for people who receive employer-based insurance and provide subsidies for working Americans who cannot afford insurance on the individual market.  If Boehner and King are successful, American workers will be forced to pay more for health coverage and get less in return.  

Government Shutdown:  If they can't repeal health care reform, Republican leaders have pledged that they will refuse to fund it — and it is increasingly apparent that they are willing to force a government shutdown if that's what it takes to achieve their goal.  According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), "Government shutdowns have necessitated the furloughing of several hundred thousand federal employees and affect all sectors of the economy."  When Republicans forced a shutdown in December 1995, an estimated 284,000 federal employees were furloughed (or sent home without pay) while another 475,000 were required to work in a "non-pay status."

Worker Safety:  In early April, an underground coal mine owned by Massey Energy exploded, killing 29 miners.  The BP oil blowout came just a few weeks later, resulting in 11 worker deaths, 17 additional injuries, and millions of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.  In both cases, the companies displayed shocking negligence and disregard for the safety of their employees.  But Republicans have responded to these tragedies by sticking up for the irresponsible practices of Big Oil and Big Coal.  In July, when the House Committee on Education and Labor passed the Miner Safety and Health Act, the Republicans on the committee voted unanimously against it (with one abstention).  In the wake of the BP oil disaster, Rep. Joe Barton — the ranking member on the Energy Committee — actually apologized to BP for harsh treatment from the White House.  Meanwhile, Republicans have bitterly criticized a moratorium on offshore drilling intended to make sure drilling is safe.  And despite the painful consequences of inadequate regulation, here's an example of the philosophy Boehner would bring to a Republican majority:  "I think having a moratorium on new federal regulations is a great idea it sends a wonderful signal to the private sector that they're going to have some breathing room."

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