AFL-CIO leaders today unveiled their prescription for curing the nation's economic ills: import quotas and other stringent trade restraints, coupled with a $31 billion economic stimulus package of jobs spending and "substantial" tax cuts for low-to-moderate-income Americans next year.
The package, drafted by the resolutions committee for the AFL-CIO's biennial convention here, bears the unwritten imprimatur of AFL-CIO President George Meany and is expected to be approved by the convention's delegates next week.
Although it avoids direct criticism of the Carter administration's economic and trade policies, the proposal asserts that the U.S. economy is "still in desperate trouble" and goes considerably beyond what the administration is reportedly planning in both areas.
In one of its most controversial demands, the committee - reflecting the labor federation's gradual but dramatic shift away from its historical free-trade stance - says imports quotas are "essential" to protect U.S. jobs from unfair foreign competition.
Asserting that foreign countries are taking advantages of the United States by subsidizing their exports and dumping products at below-cost prices in this country, the committee's proposal said: "Quantitative restraints on imports [the AFL-CIO's euphemism for quotas] are therefore essential to assure that U.S industry can develop and remain diversified at home."
The administration has thus far resisted pressure for quotas, relying instead on negotiated settlements and minimum-price guidelines in the case of the import-threatened steel industry. Vice President Mondale rejected what he called "protectionism" in a speech to the convention yesterday but pledged the administration's efforts to protect U.S. jobs from cut-race foreign competition.
In addition to demanding quotas, the AFL-CIO's trade proposals call for stricter enforcement of anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws, elimination of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. that insures private investment aboard, limitations on free-trade zones, renegotiation of the multifiber trade agreement to curtail textile imports, overhaul of the trade adjustment program that aids workers whose jobs are eliminated by imports, and other measures to discourage the transfer of U.S. jobs to foreign countries.
Trade legislation, the committee said, should be administered "to assure American domestic production as well as to encourage world trade," and negotiations with other nations "should be based on the needs of the U.S. economy, not political expediency."
In its domestic economic proposals, the AFL-CIO package endorses the administration's plans for a tax cut in 1973 but would bar any business tax relief and couple the tax cuts with a massive new job-creating effort.
While the administration envisions a personal and business income tax cut amounting to about $20 billion, the AFL-CIO plan would restrict tax cuts to "low-to-moderate-income Americans." The proposal mentioned no figures, but AFL-CIO sources said the federation's plan contemplates a tax cut of $12 billion to $13 billion.
In addition, it would expand the existing $4 billion accelerated public works program by $5 billion and double the number of federally financed public service jobs, now limited to 725,000, according to the sources.
"We are convinced that businesses do not need added tax breaks to invest and expand," the committee said. "What is needed is customers." Instead of corporate tax reductions, it added money should be pumped into an Urban Development Bank to encourage a revival of urban centers, now decaying.
"A tax cut that merely offsets the Social Security and energy tax increases without job-creating proposals will not be enough," the committee asserted, adding that tax cuts are a "necessary added stimulus to purchasing power" but not a "substitute for the program of economic strengthening" that the country needs.
The proposal reiterated the federation's opposition to wage-price controls and described "increases in the buying power of workers' wages and salaries" as a "prerequisite for a balanced economy."
The program also called for passage of the Humphrey-Hawkins full-employment bill, a more vigorous minority hiring program under which all employers would have to list job openings with a public employment service or an approved hiring hall, congressional action to force the Federal Reserve Board to lower interest rates for housing and other construction, expansion of government-financed housing programs, more countercyclical aid to localities, and an end to "tax loopholes" for corporations and the wealthy.