The Senate Budget Sets Up A Tax Giveaway To The Rich, Paid For By Cutting Medicare And Medicaid

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is said that a budget is a reflection of values; it is a moral document. Or, in the case of the budget the Republicans are about to pass, it is an immoral document.

Two weeks ago, House Republicans passed such an immoral budget. It is Robin Hood in reverse: Take from the poor (or, in this case, the 99 percent) and give to the rich. Their plan paves the way for privatizing Medicare, while cutting its budget by almost $500 billion and raising its eligibility age to 67. It also calls for the destruction of Medicaid by block-granting it, while cutting an even more enormous $1.5 trillion.

Now the action has moved to the Senate, which is doubling down on this plan to make the rich even richer, and the rest of us, poorer. It calls for cuts in domestic spending of $5.1 trillion, including $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and $470 billion in cuts to Medicare.

It instructs the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid, and taxes, to “report changes in laws within its jurisdiction” that “reduce revenues and change outlays” — code for benefit cuts. What this means is that Republicans can transfer trillions of dollars to the wealthiest one percent, and destroy Medicare and Medicaid along the way, in a fast-tracked process that cuts out Democrats.

They can use the same reconciliation process that they used in their failed effort to enact Trumpcare. That process, which they plan to use to pass so-called “tax reform” with only 51 votes, allows them to increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion. If they include cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, the tax giveaway can be trillions of dollars larger.

It is no secret why Republican elites are so eager to destroy programs that America’s working families rely on, while making their wealthy donors richer. For them, it is a twofer: They hate these programs that put the lie to their false claim that government is the problem. Medicare and Medicaid are shining examples of all of us working together through our government to solve problems. By giving enormous tax cuts to the wealthy, paid for by cuts to these vital programs, they put more money in the pockets of their donors. What will the donors do with the money? Donate to Republican politicians to keep them in power.

But the rich and their puppet legislators can be defeated. Even though the richest one percent have a high and increasing share of the nation’s income and wealth, there are more of us than them. And despite their efforts at voter suppression and gerrymandering, we, united, are the vast majority.

Just as the American people around the country rose up to defeat Trumpcare, pressure from constituents can defeat the GOP’s plan to steal from working families to enrich the wealthy. The next opportunity to stop the tax giveaway train is this week, when the Senate votes on its budget.

Back in July, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and John McCain (R-AZ) listened to their constituents and killed Trumpcare. If that trio, or another combination of three Senators, stands strong against the budget, the GOP won’t be able to proceed with the tax giveaway.

Several Republican Senators have already expressed distaste for their Party’s tax plan. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) is concerned about the tax giveaway’s impact on the deficit. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has pointed out that the current plan would actually raise taxeson many middle-class families. Senators Murkowski and Collins made it clear during the Trumpcare fight that they are not willing to vote for massive cuts to Medicaid — especially when their constituents are rallying outside their offices daily.

If one or both of your Senators is a Republican, now is the time to call them and demand that they vote no on a budget that sets up a giveaway to the rich at the American people’s expense. The best way to protect Medicare and Medicaid would be for the budget to fail. Without a budget, the Senate rules won’t allow the GOP to pass the tax giveaway with only 51 votes.

Even if the budget does pass — and it is the Republicans’ top priority — Senators will be paying attention to how many calls they receive at this point early in the process. If their phones are ringing off the hook, politicians who are already wary of the tax giveaway plan will become even more reluctant to vote for the final bill. If thousands of callers a day are demanding that they keep their hands off Medicare (except to expand it!) and Medicaid, they will get the message: The American people are paying attention, and they are angry. At the end of the day, those in power know that it is the voters, not the donors, who elect them.

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Nancy Altman

Nancy J. Altman has a forty year background in the areas of Social Security and private pensions. She is President of Social Security Works and Chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition and campaign.