After trillions in tax cuts for the rich, Republicans refuse to help struggling Americans

The economy just notched its worst collapse on record. Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs (and millions their medical insurance) amid the most dire public health crisis in generations. While some of our European and Asian allies see near-zero daily deaths from COVID-19 and are positioned for a speedy economic recovery, an American dies of coronavirus about every 80 seconds.

Amid this human and economic catastrophe, roughly a third of Senate Republicans adamantly oppose assisting millions of American families struggling to make ends meet.

Their response to a desperately needed round of relief? “Hell no.” “We’ve done enough.”

Allow that callousness to sink in for a moment; especially when just a few days’ worth of American coronavirus deaths exceed the number of lives lost during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But some additional context is crucial. Skyrocketing health care, housing and education costs amid decades of stagnant wages contribute to the reality that 40 percent of Americans – over 100 million people – cannot afford a $400 emergency.

In an absurd display of ideological performance art, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other Republicans claim that life-saving federal support for unemployment insurance, food stamps, eviction protections, student loan forgiveness, coronavirus testing and desperately-needed funding for state governments must stop.

Why must these critical relief measures end now? Because, according to this group of Republicans, debt is spiraling out of control; we simply cannot afford to spend another nickel helping people in desperate need of assistance.

Wow. Quite the ruthless response from the party that claims the mantle of a religion rooted in mercy, love and compassion.

Their recent embrace of fiscal austerity notwithstanding, these are the same Republicans who giddily passed massive tax breaks that led to – you guessed it – large increases in debt.

Republican tax cuts robbed the Treasury of nearly $2 trillion, money that should have gone directly to countless American families who must soon choose between paying rent and putting food on the table.

Despite two years of Republican control of Congress and the White House, debt and deficits rocketed into the stratosphere. President Trump, the self-proclaimed “King of Debt,” and his GOP allies racked up a staggering $4.1 trillion tab. Oh, and that was before the pandemic.

But now, in a remarkable flip-flop as millions of Americans face economic catastrophe, the national debt is suddenly a looming catastrophe to these Republicans.

Indeed, after racking up over $4 trillion in debt, Trump and the GOP reportedly refused to accept a $2 trillion compromise deal that would provide critical relief to countless Americans in dire straits.   

But Republicans’ callous hypocrisy on debt long predates Trump. During the second Bush presidency, massive GOP tax cuts left America at least $3 trillion in the red, blowing a hole in the federal debt.

Treasury Department data illustrate the disastrous effects of the GOP-Bush tax cuts, including a surge in debt and deficits in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

So, what, besides multi-trillion-dollar debt increases and a disastrous spike in inequality, do Republicans have to show for tax cuts that helped the super-rich?

Well, the Bush economy was a disaster. For his part, Trump’s enormously costly tax overhaul was a boon to the ultra-wealthy but did little to help Joe Six-Pack.

Indeed, pre-pandemic economic growth under Trump was roughly equal to the post-recession average under Obama. Moreover, the unemployment rate dropped at a steady pace beginning in 2010. In other words, the economy did not magically change for the better after Trump assumed office. He just happened to be the guy in charge when years-long trends peaked.

Ultimately, there is an awful irony at play here. GOP governors and legislatures have followed Trump’s lead in downplaying scientific and medical expertise. Perhaps as a result, coronavirus deaths are surging in deep-red states, a full five months into the pandemic (though, to be fair, some blue states are experiencing spikes as well).

Compounding this deadly reality, roughly a third of Senate Republicans refuse to extend crucial coronavirus relief. That’s a slap in the face to millions of Americans who will soon be forced to make excruciating financial decisions.

How does the GOP justify such callousness?

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.

Tags budget deficit Bush tax cuts coronavirus Donald Trump Economic policy of Donald Trump administration Economic policy of the George W. Bush administration Presidency of Barack Obama Rand Paul Ted Cruz Treasury Department

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