Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Labor union bosses want a president who will ‘rewrite the rules’

By Jason Hart

Wanted: A presidential candidate who will help the AFL-CIO reshape America’s economy to better suit the labor coalition.

Union bosses are always trying to make it easier for unions to organize and harder for workers to opt out of paying dues. But that’s only the start of AFL-CIO’s wishlist.

How are AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and other union leaders deciding who’s worthy of the unions’ activist machinery and vast campaign funds for 2016?

AFL-CIO is using Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz’s “Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity” as a guide.

In his report, Stiglitz — a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics — called for more federal spending and higher taxes on the rich to combat “income inequality” and build on “the innovative legacy of the New Deal.”

“Inequality has been a choice, and it is within our power to reverse it,” Stiglitz asserted. “If anything, a number of redistributive policies can lower net inequality and drive more durable growth.”

Stiglitz’s report listed a number of unfulfilled goals shared by AFL-CIO, whose leaders helped ram Obamacare through Congress but have been somewhat disappointed with President Obama’s time in office.

Proposals in the report — few accompanied by cost estimates — would make Obama’s $830 billion “stimulus” spending bill look like a drop in a bucket.

Many “Rewriting the Rules” policy prescriptions would be a boon to AFL-CIO’s two largest affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Stiglitz suggested taxpayers should pay for universal preschool, universal Medicare coverage, subsidized child care and more subsidization of college education.

He recommended increased infrastructure and public transportation spending, too, which would help AFL-CIO’s construction affiliates siphon more union dues from more workers.

Other Stiglitz suggestions, including a national minimum wage hike and universal paid sick leave, would make contract negotiations easier for union bosses by putting sweeping new mandates on employers.

Stiglitz was a featured speaker at the July meeting where AFL-CIO interviewed Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb.

“Professor Stiglitz’s voice was a critical presence at the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting last month,” AFL-CIO senior press secretary Josh Goldstein told via email.

“The ideas in his Rewriting the Rules report are part of the guiding principles that drove discussions with five presidential candidates and will be a central part of the measuring stick we use in 2016,” Goldstein said.

AFT has already endorsed Hillary Clinton, but endorsements from other AFL-CIO members — and AFL-CIO itself — are still up for grabs.

Curtis Dubay, a tax and economic policy researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation, sees nothing new in the latest left-wing economic report embraced by AFL-CIO.

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