SEATTLE — Advocates for fair trade policies and for the Medicare program will join together on Thursday to protest a new proposal by U.S. Rep. David Reichert (R-8th). He wants to raid Medicare funds to pay for unemployment and training benefits for workers whose jobs are moved overseas in the wake of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and other NAFTA-like deals.
TAKE A STAND — All union members and community supporters are urged to join in this protest of Reichert’s plan to cut Medicare to pay for TPP’s damage. It will be Thursday, May 28 from 11 a.m. to noon at the World Trade Center West, 2200 Alaskan Way, in Seattle. (Reichert is speaking at a World Affairs Council luncheon at that location.)
Congress is currently voting on whether to grant President Barack Obama and his White House successor Trade Promotion Authority, known as “Fast Track,” to negotiate the TPP and other trade agreements. Fast Track restricts debate and forbids amendments on the deals, allowing only an up-or-down vote. It narrowly passed the Senate last week, but Fast Track faces a tougher test in the House in June.
Democrats in Congress are insisting that Fast Track be coupled with reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which provides unemployment and job-training benefits to workers who lose their jobs because of these trade deals when manufacturing/production is shifted overseas.
Reichert, who supports passage of Fast Track and the TPP, has proposed covering some of the cost of TAA extension by cutting future Medicare reimbursements for doctors and hospitals. According to an L.A. Times report:
Medicare means many things to many people. To seniors, it’s a program providing good, low-cost healthcare at a stage in life when it’s most needed.
To Congress, it’s beginning to look more like a piggy bank to be raided.
That’s the only conclusion one can draw from a provision slipped into a measure to extend and increase the government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides assistance to workers who lose their jobs because of trade deals. The measure, introduced by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), proposes covering some of the $2.7-billion cost of the extension by slicing $700 million out of doctor and hospital reimbursements for Medicare.
“Cutting Medicare to pay for the damage your trade deals inflict on working families is rubbing salt in an open wound,” said Lynne Dodson, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “We call on David Reichert to drop this horrible idea, to protect Medicare, and to do his duty as Congressman and make sure trade deals benefit everyone. That means rejecting Fast Track.”