Unjust GOP budget and tax plan cuts the safety net for seniors

Unjust GOP budget and tax plan cuts the safety net for seniors
© Greg Nash

Tomorrow the House will vote on its 2018 budget resolution. Leadership says it has the votes to pass. That’s unfortunate, as it signifies that a majority of House Republicans favor a Robin Hood-in-reverse budget that cuts programs for the poor and elderly to give tax cuts to the rich. I delivered that message on Capitol Hill Tuesday with Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthBudget hawk warns 'Tax Cuts 2.0.' would balloon debt On The Money: Trump threatens 7B more in Chinese tariffs | Obama mocks GOP for taking credit for economy | US adds 201K jobs in strong August | Dems vow to get Trump's tax returns if they take the House Dems vow to grab Trump tax returns upon taking majority MORE (D-Ky.), Ranking member of the House Budget Committee, committee member Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Texas), and fellow advocates.

Congressman Yarmuth pointed out that a budget is a “moral document.” As such, the GOP resolution spectacularly fails the morality test. “The Republican budget and tax plan does not reflect the values of American people,” said Rep. Yarmuth.

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Rep. Lee indicted the GOP budget as “doing little for ordinary Americans” and “inflicting harm on children, seniors, and people with disabilities,” in other words, the most vulnerable members of our society.

 

One has to wonder why, at a time of the worst wealth and income inequality since the 1920s, the party in power wants to shower the top 1 percent and profitable corporations with tax breaks — paid for by slashing safety net programs.

The Republican budget would gouge $1 trillion from Medicaid, more than 60 percent of which pays for long-term care for seniors who have already impoverished themselves to qualify. The budget resolution imposes per capita caps or block grants on Medicaid that won’t grow with the needs of the population, including emergencies like hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico.

Despite President Trump’s repeated promises not to touch Medicare, the GOP budget resolution calls for nearly $500 billion in Medicare cuts. The program would be privatized and the eligibility age raised from 65 to 67. How does it make sense to slash Medicare by nearly half a trillion dollars over 10 years when 10,000 seniors become eligible for Medicare every day?

Medicare — along with Social Security — is an earned benefit that Americans pay into during their working years. As self-funded programs, neither Medicare Part A nor Social Security contributes to the federal deficit. But under the Republican’s tax proposal, which would swell the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade, budget cutters will no doubt sharpen their knives for Social Security and Medicare to close the gap. Again, it is immoral to ask seniors to pay for tax cuts for the rich and big corporations.

Polls consistently show that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are incredibly popular with the American public. But you wouldn’t know that from reading the House Budget Committee’s resolution. In fact, a new USA Today poll indicates that 70 percent of older Americans don’t trust Congress to protect Social Security and Medicare — with good reason.

But the pain won’t stop with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In order to pay for trillions in tax cuts, the GOP will have to come after other programs that benefit older Americans, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for poor seniors and people with disabilities, home heating assistance, and funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which would hamper research into Alzheimer’s, cancer, and chronic diseases.

I wish I could say that the Senate, which is considered the more moderate body of the two houses of Congress, had a fairer, less cruel budget and tax plan. Unfortunately, the Senate Budget Committee is moving in virtual lockstep with the House. The crucial numbers and implied cuts are just as bad.

Congressional Republicans have been passing budget resolutions like this for years without any hope that their proposals would be enacted. But with all three branches of government now in GOP control, the consequences for older Americans and their families will be devastating if these harmful proposals become reality.

Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a membership organization which promotes the financial security, health, and well being of current and future generations of maturing Americans.