After Passing Senate Tax Bill, GOP to Target Seniors’ Earned Benefits

Maybe it’s no coincidence that the Senate passed its tax bill, vampire-like, in the dead of night. How very apropos for legislation that could lead to the lifeblood being leached out of programs that the elderly and working class depend on. Kudos to Senator Bob Corker for being the lone Republican to stand on principle and vote against the bill. At the same time, Senator Collins, Murkowski, McCain, and other sensible GOP members have disappointed by betraying principles they proclaimed were important during the healthcare battle, but seem to have forgotten during the tax debate. (Among other things, the bill zeroes out the tax penalty in the Obamacare insurance mandate, which could lead to 13 millions Americans losing coverage and higher premiums for older Americans.)

In the wake of the bill’s passage early Saturday morning, National Committee President Max Richtman made the following statement:

“Senate Republicans have just given the wealthy and multi-national corporations an early Christmas present by passing the Trump/GOP tax plan, while leaving a lump of coal for seniors and almost everyone else. The president and his party in Congress are asking the poor, middle class, and elderly to pick up the tab for trillions of dollars in tax breaks that the super-rich and profitable corporations do not need.” – Max Richtman, NCPSSM President, 12/2/17

Senator Susan Collins’ last-minute amendment to retain the current medical expense deduction threshold (up to 10% of adjusted gross income) made the Senate bill a little more tolerable, but not by much. The House version outright repeals the medical expense deduction – which millions of seniors rely upon to mitigate high out of pocket medical and long-term care costs. But the biggest poison pill for the elderly in this legislation is the existential threat it poses to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

“If enacted, the tax bill will trigger an automatic $25 billion cut to Medicare. It blows a $1 trillion hole in the deficit, inviting deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. It adopts the paltry “Chained CPI” inflation index for calculating deductions and tax brackets, setting a dangerous precedent that could spill over into cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security.” – Max Richtman, NCPSSM President, 12/2/17

The Senate bill is only slightly less objectionable than the House version, which passed in November. The two must either be reconciled in a House-Senate conference – or the House may vote on the Senate version as-is. Republican leadership has promised to have the legislation on President Trump’s desk before the holidays, making this one of the rottenest Christmas presents the Congress has ever given the American people.

As if to confirm the warnings of seniors’ advocates, Republicans have signaled that their next targets after the tax bill are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

“High-ranking Republicans are hinting that, after their tax overhaul, the party intends to look at cutting spending on welfare, Social Security, Medicare and other parts of the social safety net. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said recently that he wants Republicans to focus in 2018 on reducing spending on government programs.” – Washington Post

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) admitted as much in an interview with Politico last week, declaring that spending cuts in earned benefits programs will be necessary to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and multinational corporations.

“We need to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.” – Sen. Marco Rubio, 11/29/17

Of course, by “structural changes,” Rubio really means cutting earned benefits and turning Medicare into a voucher program. He and other GOP leaders have been pushing this agenda for years; the difference is that now they have the power to enact it, common sense, decency, or the well-being of seniors be damned.

Senator Rubio’s pronouncements further expose the phoniness of candidate Trump’s promises “not to touch” Social Security and Medicare. By championing the Trump/GOP tax plan, the President has embraced the inevitable efforts to slash both programs to close the deficit. What’s more, the President’s own 2018 budget blueprint called for more than $60 billion in cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Notice that we don’t see President Trump contradicting Senator Rubio’s comments to Politico. We can now safely say that seniors should take Republicans’ word for it: After giving the wealthy and profitable corporations a multi-trillion-dollar holiday gift, Congress will take an axe to programs Americans have paid into for the entire working lives.