The tax bill that has emerged from closed-door negotiations between House and Senate Republicans remains deeply harmful to the working class, the elderly, and the sick. The only good news is that the bill retains the medical expense deduction which so many older Americans rely upon. The rest is bad news. The latest version of the bill:
*Triggers an automatic $25 billion cut to Medicare.
*Blows a $1.5 trillion hole in the federal debt, inviting future cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
*Zeroes-out the tax penalty for the Obamacare coverage mandate, which will cause an estimated 13 million Americans to lose insurance – and result in higher premiums for older adults (an average of $1,500 in 2019).
*Uses the paltry “Chained CPI” inflation index to calculate adjustments to tax brackets and deductions, which will not only result in tax increases, but could ultimately result in lower Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).
At the same time, the bill continues to shower the wealthy and profitable corporations with trillions of dollars in tax breaks while providing scant relief for working Americans. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) summed it up this way:
“The American people are witnessing a master class in how one political party, relying on secrecy distortion and brute force, can muscle an unpopular, deficit exploding corporate giveaway to passage… This is the ultimate betrayal of the middle class.” – Senator Ron Wyden
And yet, Republican leadership forges ahead with its reckless tax scheme – by hook or by crook – ignoring fairness, fiscal responsibility, and the will of the American people. A Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday finds minimal public support for the GOP tax plan:
Only 16 percent of American voters say the tax plan will reduce their taxes, while 44 percent say it will increase their taxes and 30 percent say the tax plan will have little impact. The wealthy will benefit most from the tax plan, 65 percent of voters say. – Quinnipiac University poll, 12/13/17
A few GOP Senators are poised to either show Pavlov-style allegiance to their party or strong leadership on behalf of the American people when the bill returns to the Senate floor. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) remains opposed to the bill. (He was the sole Republican to vote against the Senate-passed version). In the space of barely 24 hours, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) flipped to a ‘No’ and then back to a ‘Yes.’
That leaves Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). She still has not definitively come out against the bill, even though it violates the principles she valiantly fought for during the Obamacare repeal debate – not to mention that leadership has broken all the promises it made to secure her vote. We can only hope that she will find her bearings again and declare herself opposed, as the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald urged in an editorial this week:
Senator Collins should not reward the tea-party right or President Trump’s Wall Street insiders by voting for a bill that does so much for so few who don’t need it. – Portland Press-Herald, 12/12/17
Even if Senator Collins joined Senator Corker in opposition, a third Republican would have to come out against the bill. As next week’s votes in the House and Senate draw near, that is looking like an increasingly remote possibility.