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Mess of a GOP Tax Bill Still Hurts Older Americans

(Updated 12/15/17 2:45pm)

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.  

National Committee President, House Dems Decry GOP Tax Plan’s "Dire" Impact on Seniors

As Republicans remain indifferent – or in denial – about the impact of the Trump/GOP tax scam on older Americans, seniors’ defenders are sounding the alarm.  National Committee president and CEO Max Richtman joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic representatives in front of the U.S. Capitol today to warn of the dangers the tax plan poses to seniors’ retirement and health security. Richtman called the tax bill a “con game that should be called the ‘Washington two-step.’”

“Step one is cutting taxes for top-earning households and profitable corporations. Step two:  use the higher deficits the tax bill will create to cut critical programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.” – Max Richtman, NCPSSM president and CEO, 12/6/17

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) let the cat out of the bag when he acknowledged that Republicans will come after seniors’ earned benefit programs as soon as the tax cut passes.  In fact, the tax bill will trigger an immediate $25 billion cut to Medicare unless Congress quickly waives the PAYGO provision of federal budget law. (Both Medicare and Medicaid – which helps seniors afford long-term care – are targeted for deep cuts in the GOP budget plan.) The tax scam also hurts older Americans by zeroing out the Obamacare coverage mandate penalty (which could result in higher premiums for 50-64 year-olds).  It also imposes the paltry “Chained CPI” as an inflation index for taxes, which could later bleed over into Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and shrink badly needed increases in retirees’ checks. 

Speaking on this chilly December afternoon in the nation’s capital, Leader Pelosi said, “It’s a cold day for seniors because of this GOP tax scam. It is an assault on the older Americans who built this country.  Seniors are among the biggest losers in this legislation.”

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) called the tax bill “the first step in the Republican plan to undermine the financial and health security of older Americans.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) observed that the threat to seniors from the GOP tax legislation “keeps getting worse and worse” and said the bill would have “cruel and dire” consequences.  She slammed the House bill’s repeal of the medical expense deduction, which millions of seniors use to mitigate high out-of-pocket medical and long-term care costs.

Republican members of a House-Senate conference committee are currently meeting behind closed doors to work out the differences between each chamber’s version of the tax bill.  Leadership hopes to pass a final bill and send it to President Trump for signature before Christmas – perhaps the worst holiday gift Congress could possibly give to the American people.  Seniors and their advocates are right to be concerned about this legislation, which is deeply unpopular with the public (only 29% of Americans support it in the most recent polling).  But after years of dreaming about slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, Republicans are now in a position to carry out their craven plans - without apparent regard for public opinion, fairness, or decency. 

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.

Click here for a detailed analysis of how the Senate GOP tax bill hurts seniors.

Outrage Crucial as Trump-GOP Tax Scam Gets Dangerously Close to Passing the Senate

When President Trump and Congressional Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare earlier this year, the gross unfairness of taking healthcare away from 20-30 million Americans sparked outrage across the country.  Members of Congress got an angry earful from constituents every time they went back home.  Speaker Paul Ryan’s office got so many calls they had to shut the phone lines down.  Despite multiple attempts to kill the Affordable Care Act, Republicans repeatedly failed under a crush of public pressure.  Senators of conscience, including Sens. McCain, Murkowski, and Collins put principle over party and stood in opposition when it counted.  That is precisely the kind of outrage we need right now as the Trump/GOP tax scam rolls toward passage.

In the face of overwhelming evidence that the Republican plan is a shamelessly giveaway to the wealthy and big corporations, the public must continue to apply as much pressure as possible on elected representatives. (The Senate GOP bill even includes a provision repealing Obamacare’s mandate, and the opposition must rise with equal fervor.)  National Committee president Max Richtman sent a letter to the Senate yesterday urging that the bill be defeated.

Now is the time to seize on the opportunity to stop the Trump/GOP tax juggernaut before it wreaks permanent havoc on the lives of the poor, the sick, the working class, and the elderly. Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee advanced the bill to the floor on a 12-11 party-line vote. A handful of GOP Senators still oppose the plan, but the number is dwindling by the day and no doubt most of them will cave in the end. Meanwhile, in an effort to woo holdouts, Senate tax writers are making the bill even more generous to the wealthy.  

“[A] change demanded by… two unhappy senators — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana — would further lower the tax bills of people like President Trump who earn most of their income through limited liability companies, partnerships and other ‘pass through’ businesses that do not withhold taxes on the money passed along to their owners.” – New York Times, 11/28/17

One could rightly ask, where is the outrage on the part of deficit hawks and so-called GOP moderates? What does it even mean to be a moderate who could vote for such a regressive piece of legislation?  Even Maine Senator Susan Collins is negotiating with tax writers instead of remaining firm in opposition.  Hopes that the requisite three GOP Senators will retain the courage to buck this bill are fading fast.

We need to look past the obvious distractions of Trump’s latest tweets and petty feuds and keep our eye on the ball.  The Trump/GOP tax scam is being served up for the benefit of billionaires and corporate titans in the party’s donor base.  Republicans have admitted as much:  big donations will dry up if they don’t get this done.

Months of careful and credible analysis has laid bare the truth about who will pay the price for this irresponsible legislation.  While the 1% get trillions in tax relief, many working class Americans will see their taxes go up in the next ten years:

Almost every independent evaluation of the House and Senate plans has found a $1 trillion tax cut for corporations and changes to the individual tax code that would benefit wealthier Americans while leading to millions of middle-class and lower-income people paying higher taxes than they do now. – Dylan Scott, Vox
Those earning under $10,000 would see their taxes rise by a cumulative $100 million; those earning between $10,000 and $20,000 would see taxes rise by $638 million; those earning between $20,000 and $30,000 would see taxes rise by almost $1.2 billion; and those earning between $30,000 and $40,000 would see taxes rise by $653 billion. – Politifact.

According to Politifact, some 40 million Americans would pay higher taxes in 2027 than they would today. Older Americans would be hit particularly hard.  Not only might their taxes go up if they are not fortunate enough to inhabit the upper income echelons, but the tax legislation would automatically trigger $25 billion in immediate cuts to Medicare.  The projected $1.5 trillion the tax cuts would add to the national debt would no doubt spur Republicans to pursue even deeper cuts to seniors’ earned benefits, leading to benefit cuts and higher eligibility ages for Medicare and Social Security.  Melissa Favreault of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center warns:

Unless the tax cuts spur immense economic growth, which many prominent economists doubt based on decades of evidence, these cuts will harm future workers and Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. – Melissa Favreault, Tax Policy Center

Not to mention that the Trump/GOP budget plan calls for over a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicaid, which millions of seniors rely on for long-term care.  Is it fair to punish current and future generations of seniors so the rich and multinational corporations can pocket trillions they don’t even need? 

Republican members of Congress continue to shill for the plan, perpetuating the lie that it provides significant tax relief for the middle class (it clearly doesn’t) or that it will grow the economy and create jobs (a myth disproven by history time and again).  The mainstream media focuses largely on the “horse race” aspect of the tax debate – who’s up, who’s down, how badly President Trump and the GOP need a “win.” Meanwhile, we know who loses, including large swaths of President Trump’s own base in the working class, which is perhaps the most egregious betrayal of all.  As Dylan Scott points out in Vox, candidate Trump promised to bring a new kind of populism to Washington.  “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” said the President at his inaugural.  

“Trump promised that the big, beautiful tax cut Republicans would pass would be a tax cut for the middle class. He went so far as to claim that he himself, allegedly worth $10 billion, would not benefit. He pledged that he wouldn’t be swayed by the Washington lobbying class.” – Dylan Scott, Vox

Those millions of working class Americans seem to have been all but forgotten now.  The President and the Republicans in Congress are clearly hoping that most voters are, in fact, distracted or looking the other way as they pull off one of the biggest transfers of wealth in U.S. history.  But we must not look the other way, or soon it will be too late.

 

Trump/GOP Tax Bill Would Trigger Devastating Cut to Medicare

In the latest in a series of “oops” moments for the GOP, Congressional leaders apparently didn’t realize that their deficit-swelling tax scheme would trigger $136 billion in automatic cuts to mandatory spending programs.  This includes a $25 billion reduction in Medicare spending, which would take effect almost immediately after passage of the tax bill.  Needless to say, that large a cut could be devastating to the 57 million seniors and disabled who rely on Medicare.  As a consequence of cutting taxes for the wealthy and big corporations, it would also be grossly unfair.

The automatic cuts would kick-in thanks to the little-known PAYGO law, which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, “requires that new legislation enacted during a term of Congress does not collectively increase estimated deficits.”  If such legislation produces a net increase in the deficit, the federal government is required to sequester enough funds to eliminate the overage; hence, the massive and instant cut to Medicare.

As we discussed on today's Behind the Headlines on Facebook Live, seniors’ advocates are understandably alarmed.  National Committee President Max Richtman issued the following wake-up call this morning:

“In their rush to enact a reckless tax bill, Congressional Republicans have overlooked a provision in federal budgetary law that would have immediate and devastating consequences for Medicare.  Left uncorrected, this would not only be a bald-faced admission that tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations are more important than medical care for seniors, but also a betrayal of President Trump’s promise not to touch Medicare.” – Max Richtman, National Committee president, 11/15/17

Richtman sent a letter to the House of Representatives today urging members to oppose the GOP’s “Robin Hood in Reverse” tax plan in its entirety – or at least stop the imminent cut to Medicare while they have the chance.  The Congress can stop the sequestration – including the $25 billion hit to Medicare – when it enacts the tax plan.  House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says that GOP leadership should at least have the common sense to do that.

“While it is possible to avoid the PAYGO enforcement cuts triggered by their added deficits, Republicans would need Democratic votes to do it, requiring them to abandon their go-it-alone partisan strategy, which is only leading them on a path to failure and to putting our country in danger.” – House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, 11/14/17

Of course, the entire tax scheme – which is being rushed through Congress without regular order – is harmful to seniors’ health and retirement security either way.  It eliminates the deduction for medical expenses like chronic and long-term care and balloons the deficit so that future Congresses will feel justified in raiding Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to make up the difference. In fact, the tax plan presumes passage of the Scrooge-like Republican budget, which calls for $500 billion in Medicare cuts and slashes Medicaid by a whopping $1 trillion.  In effect, Republicans are asking seniors, the disabled, and the poor to pay for the lion’s share of a cut for the super-rich. Not to mention that some 36 million middle class Americans will actually see their taxes go up under the GOP plan.

None of these groups – the poor, the middle class, the disabled, or seniors – should be asked to shoulder this burden for a tax cut the wealthy and big corporations don’t need.  As Max Richtman writes in his letter to Congress:

Medicare beneficiaries cannot afford to pay more for less coverage – particularly when half of them have incomes of less than $26,200 a year and spend 25 percent of their Social Security check to pay for Medicare Parts B and D out-of-pocket costs for premiums and cost-sharing amounts.  

Regarding Medicaid, middle-class Americans often rely on the program for long-term services and supports when they exhaust their savings. Nearly two-thirds of all nursing home residents’ care is financed in whole or in part by Medicaid. In addition, Medicaid provides home and community-based services that allow seniors to stay in their homes. The fiscal crisis created by the tax bill is likely to result in a [trillion-dollar] cut to Medicaid that will limit seniors’ access to long-term care services. – Max Richtman’s Letter to Congress, 11/15/17

The public seems to grasp the gross unfairness of the Republican tax scheme.  A just-released Quinnipiac poll indicates that only 25% favor the GOP plan while 52% oppose it. Meanwhile, GOP leadership has made it clear that they are not beholden to ordinary Americans, but their wealthy and powerful donors:  a glaring case of backward priorities on Capitol Hill.

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Our Digital Media department created this clever graphic for our Facebook and Twitter feeds about the true nature of the GOP Tax Scam and the PAYGO cuts:


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