Consider health insurance reform and tax cuts for the rich.
The GOP spent the entire fall election cycle yammering about the federal deficit. The world as we know it was coming to an end because of the deficit, they contended loudly and repeatedly.
Then, immediately after Election Day, Republicans insisted on extending tax cuts for the rich. They added more than $36 billion to that supposedly-cataclysmic federal deficit in 2011 so that they could pad the pockets of the nation’s millionaires.
To secure that bonus for millionaires, Republicans held hostage extension of unemployment compensation, which during this grave recession, sustains the nation’s workers who are out of jobs and, all too often, also out of foreclosed-on homes. The deal comes down to this: The average millionaire will be $100,000 richer as a result in 2011. The average worker will get $15,236 in unemployment benefits if jobless the entire year of 2011.
Republicans insisted on giving the rich $84,764 a year more than the poor.
Repealing health insurance reform, as the GOP has said it hopes to do before month’s end, would have the same result – increasing that supposedly-cataclysmic federal deficit while slamming the poor and middle class.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has calculated that the Affordable Care Act will decrease the federal deficit by $140 billion over 10 years. That’s what the GOP wants to repeal – a deficit reduction measure. Republicans want to add $140 billion to the debt.
Most injured by repeal would be the nation’s poor and middle class. That’s because rescinding the law would once again allow insurers to deny healthcare to children with pre-existing conditions. It would mean the elderly would once again pay more for preventative care and prescriptions. It would permit insurers to once again withdraw coverage from people when they get sick. It would mean insurers could kick out young adults who are now covered under their parents’ plans until age 26. It would permit insurers to re-impose “lifetime maximums,” so that they could cancel the coverage of people with costly illnesses. It would permit insurers to once again pocket for profit and “administrative expenses” an unlimited percentage of premiums paid by workers and employers. It would mean small businesses would lose tax breaks that will help them pay for health insurance for workers.
The GOP intends to deny tens of millions of uninsured Americans the hope that soon they’ll be able to afford coverage.
Republicans want to, as they put it, “undo” the health insurance benefits that the Affordable Care Act provides to Americans. And they’re offering nothing in return, nothing to help the uninsured, nothing to help the untold millions cheated by insurance corporations, nothing to require premiums to be spent on healthcare.
That’s the way Republican-hood rolls, protecting the wealthy, pummeling the poor. The rich, in the case of health insurance, are CEOs earning millions while increasing rates in double digits during a recession. The Los Angeles Times reported in August, for example, that the top executives of the nation’s five largest for-profit health insurers pulled down $200 million in compensation in 2009. The poor, in this case, are policy holders who the insurers charged rate increases as high as 39 percent.
House Republicans would exempt their canceling of health insurance reform from their own rule that new legislation be paid for. So they wouldn’t have to find an additional $14 billion when they attempt to fulfill their campaign pledge to slash $100 billion from domestic programs – that would be from the programs most needed by the nation’s workers – those that help pay for education and transportation, for example. Because these domestic programs are such a small part of the budget, securing $100 billion from them would cost each department approximately 20 percent of its funds this year. That means painful reductions to areas like law enforcement and medical research. This is accompanied by Republican demands for cuts to many workers’ only retirement plan – Social Security.
In the meantime, the main concern of most Americans, as it was in the grueling days of Robin Hood, is jobs. Not the deficit. The GOP offers no plan to increase jobs for formerly working people, to end the suffering of tens of millions of Americans. Republican-hood is, instead, focused on pampering those who don’t need it.
Leo W. Gerard is the international president of the United Steelworkers.