WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- The AFL-CIO, along with a coalition of advocacy groups, blasted the House of
Representatives' version of a proposed economic stimulus package as too heavily tilted toward corporate and tax cuts for the affluent, and not toward spending programs that would include the out-of-work.
"Working people can count, and they don't like being counted out," said John J. Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest trade union association.
Sweeney spoke Wednesday morning at the National Press Club, along with a coalition of groups -- under the banner of the Campaign for America's Future -- that included the National Organization of Women, the National Education Association and the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic-advocacy organization.
Congressional leaders, in conjunction with the White House, have been crafting measures intended to act as a comprehensive economic stimulus in the face of the lagging U.S. economy, which has markedly worsened after the devastating Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The economic ripple effect from the attack has played havoc with everything from the U.S. financial markets and the airline industry to plunging consumer confidence -- perhaps the most notable effect as consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of gross domestic product.
On the employment front, an estimated 500,000 people have lost, or are expected to lose, their jobs because of the Sept. 11 caused downturn.
The Senate and House, however, have broken on what shape economic stimulus should take.
According to House Republicans, the GOP-sponsored $100 billion stimulus package, which is heavily focused on business and capital investment tax cuts, will spark an economic revival more quickly than the rival Senate bill, which has more stipulations for unemployment benefits, retraining assistance and health-care coverage.
Critics of the House measure, including the AFL-CIO, knock the corporate cuts as unneeded medicine for various industries.
Sweeney noted that the earlier $15 billion airline bailout package -- passed post-Sept. 11 -- made no provisions for the estimated 150,000 airline workers laid off since September.
"Now we're faced with the same twisted priorities when it comes to stimulus legislation," Sweeney said.
"And not only will that shameless approach provide no help to the 500,000 working men and women who are being laid off in the wake of the terrorist attacks, it will also get no response from our floundering economy -- because a package of tax cuts for upper income earners and giveaways to corporations will provide no stimulus, " Sweeney added.
Among its various provisions, the House bill would give refunds to corporations for the alternative minimum taxes they paid going as far back as back as 1986. The alternative minimum tax was established to ensure that persons or business which take a large number of deductions and tax credits sill pay a minimum amount of taxes.
Also, the House bill would lower the personal long-term capital gains rates from 20 percent to 18 percent for most categories of taxpayers, and cut the tax rate for affluent taxpayers from 27 percent to 25 percent in 2002 instead of 2006 (as called for in last spring's tax cut).
Senate Democrats have said that House bill will face opposition in conference committee.
"It's clear the House bill cannot pass the Senate as it is," said Sen. John Breaux, D-La.
The Senate economic stimulus proposal, as put forward by Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is a $70 billion package which among other provisions would extends unemployment benefits by 13 weeks, and would allow more workers to qualify for Medicaid. Also the bill would provides a 50 percent federal match for COBRA health insurance policies
On the tax cut side, the Senate bill provides for $35 billion in cuts out of the $70 billion total, but does not provide for the repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax and does not cut the capital gains tax.
The administration, however, criticized the Senate bill, with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill saying in a prepared statement Tuesday -- "This is a spending package, not a stimulus package."