AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland led a coalition of labor, consumer and environmental groups yesterday in an attack on President Carter's proposed balanced budget for 1981, warning that members of Congress who support the budget may forfeit labor's support in the November elections.
Kirkland stopped short of a full break with the president, however, saying he remains neutral in the Democratic primary contest. The administration's pursuit of a balanced budget has strained but not ended its anti-inflation partnership with the AFL-CIO, the result of a "national accord" signed last September, Kirkland said.
The immediate goal of the 147-member coalition, which includes the United Auto Workers, the NAACP, the National Women's Political Caucus and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, is to defeat the 1981 budget resolution in the House and Senate. A half-dozen coalition members appeared with Kirkland yesterday at the AFL-CIO headquarters here.
Kirkland acknowledged that the balanced budget goal has powerful political support in Congress and psychological backing among the public. But he called it a "misguided approach to fighting inflation that runs counter to the general welfare of the American people, especially the weak, the poor, the handicapped, minorities and the young and elderly of our society."
He said he would prefer wage and price controls, as well as credit controls, to the administration strategy of domestic budget cuts and record interest rates.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) Carter's primary opponent, has called for wages and price controls. He has the support of a large number of the organizations in the coalition.
Kirkland said the AFL-CIO thought it had an understanding with the White House that domestic programs would not be sharply cut in 1981, and in fact they were spared when the new budget was released in January. But that budget was torn up last month, as the administration and congressional leaders reacted to the surge in inflation rates.
The campaign to block the balanced budget proposals in an attempt to keep the accord alive, he said.
Kirkland said he supports the need for additional defense spending, but said increases should not come out of domestic programs.
If the budget is to be balanced, it should be done through reforms that increase tax revenues, he said.
"High energy prices, punishing interest rates, ever-increasing levels of medical and hospital fees and profiteering by commodity speculators are among the real causes of inflation. Balancing the federal budget does not deal with these root causes," he said.