Blog | Tax and Budget Policy

Here Come the Republican Benefit Cuts

First, they run up the deficit with massive tax giveaways for millionaires and Wall Street; then they use the deficit as an excuse to cut benefits for working people.

This is what the Republican tax scam is all about. Anybody who’s been paying attention should have seen this coming a mile away. The only surprising thing is that they’re not even waiting for their tax bill to run up the deficit before they start demanding benefit cuts.

Last month, House Republican Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced, "Congress will turn next year to spending cuts to try to lower the deficit…that’s the second step after cutting taxes."

Yesterday Ryan said, "We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit." Just to be clear, by "entitlement reform," Ryan means cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Why would Ryan want to cut health benefits? Yesterday he claimed that, "Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt” and “that’s where the problem lies, fiscally speaking."

Well, gee, if you’re so concerned about the debt, maybe you shouldn’t be trying to ram through Congress a wasteful tax boondoggle that has an official price tag of nearly $1.5 trillion, but that will surely cost a lot more than that because it’s so chock full of budgeting gimmicks.

Other Republican leaders have joined the call for benefit cuts. Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, "You’ve got to look at entitlements."

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, "You also have to bring spending under control….The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries."

One group of Republicans in the House–the Republican Study Committee–is pushing a set of proposals to cut $1 trillion from entitlement programs.

Last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was pointing to the deficit as an excuse for letting children’s health benefits expire. The Children's Health Insurance Program provides health care for 9 million children, and its funding lapsed two months ago. Hatch explained that "the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore."

"We don’t have money anymore?" Again, if Republicans really thought this were true, why would they be wasting $1.5 trillion on tax giveaways for millionaires and Wall Street? Why would they be wasting $151 billion on estate tax cuts for the wealthiest 0.2% of heirs in the country?

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) explained why Republicans are so intent on giving tax breaks to the wealthiest heirs: "I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze, or women, or movies."

In other words, working-class people are good-for-nothings who waste all their money, while Paris Hilton is powering the economy forward with her investments in miniature dog palaces.

Last week, Hatch showed this same kind of contempt for working people. He said, "I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won't help themselves, won't lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything."

The Republican leadership seems to have a double standard when it comes to deficits. Deficits are no big deal when it comes to giving a $1.5 trillion Christmas present to their millionaire friends on Wall Street. Yet deficits are an urgent national emergency when it comes to things that matter to working people—like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, education and infrastructure.

This double standard is at the core of the Republican tax scam that dings working people while rewarding people at the very top who don’t need any more tax breaks. The Republican plan is to give millionaires and Wall Street massive tax breaks and make the rest of us pay the price in the form of outsourced jobs, Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts, education cuts, infrastructure cuts, higher taxes on middle-class families, higher health insurance premiums, more people without health insurance and more people dying because they lack health insurance.

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