Andy Stern Says Fiscal Commission Shouldn’t Be Dominated By GOP Ideas

Former SEIU President Andy Stern, who sits on President Obama’s fiscal commission, says he will not endorse the panel’s final recommendations if they are dominated by Republican ideas.

“There has to be a mix,” Stern told me in an interview last night.

The bipartisan, 18 member panel has been tasked with providing policy guidance that will bring the country closer to fiscal balance. As TPM has reported, many of the Republican members are largely interested in securing spending cuts, and want to avoid tax increases of all kinds. Some are even pressing for lower tax rates for corporations, the cost of which could be offset by eliminating tax loopholes and giveaways (known officially as tax expenditures).

But Stern says he’s looking for real tax increases. “I’m not an all-cut guy and I just don’t know if tax expenditures can produce enough revenues on their own.”Most progressives go farther, demanding that Social Security be off limits to the commission, and that the commission should focus on defense and other spending cuts.

Last night Stern was in Wisconsin attending a forum with one of the Republicans on the commission, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — who, as the House Republicans’ top budget guy, has earned a great deal of notoriety for authoring a fiscal plan that would partially privatize Social Security, and turn Medicare into a voucher program.

Not all Democratic activists were pleased by Stern’s participation, which came three weeks before the midterm election while Wisconsin’s progressive darling Russ Feingold is struggling in his race to win re-election to the Senate. Stern says he’ll be pitching in for Feingold, whose campaign, he said, should be one of progressives’ top priorities.

“I’m going to see what else I can do, draw attention of find some money, see what I can do,” Stern said.

“Russ Feingold is kind of a hero to our members,” Stern added. “We still consider him a maverick, even though [his opponent Ron] Johnson doesn’t.”