The most powerful union official in the country offered reporters his harshest critique of President Obama to date Thursday, questioning Obama’s policy and strategic decisions, and claiming he aligned himself with the Tea Party in the debt limit fight.
“This is a moment that working people and quite frankly history will judge President Obama on his presidency; will he commit all his energy and focus on bold solutions on the job crisis or will he continue to work with the Tea Party to offer cuts to middle class programs like Social Security all the while pretending the deficit is where our economic problems really lie,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters at a breakfast roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Trumka dismissed Obama’s recent job creation proposals — an extended payroll tax cut, patent reform, free trade deals — as “nibbly things that aren’t going to make a difference,” and said the AFL-CIO might sit out the Democratic convention if he and the party don’t get serious.
“If they don’t have a jobs program I think we’d better use our money doing other things,” Trumka said.
Trumka sits on Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, chaired by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt — a panel Trumka’s all but written off. “I don’t know whether the commission’s making a difference or not…it’s a legitimate question whether that commission has done anything worthwhile,” he said, illustrating his belief that the status quo has failed.
Asked how Obama fell off course, Trumka explained, “I think he made a strategic mistake when he confused job crisis with the deficit crisis a number of months ago — when he would talk about job creation and then in the same sentence talk about deficit reduction and people got the two confused. And he helped with that.”
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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.