Republicans are coming for your benefits

Offsetting soaring deficits generated by the Republican tax cuts will require going after the true big-ticket programs, namely Medicare and Social Security.

Republicans don’t care about budget deficits, and never did. They only pretend to care about deficits when one of two things is true: a Democrat is in the White House, and deficit rhetoric can be used to block his agenda, or they see an opportunity to slash social programs that help needy Americans, and can invoke deficits as an excuse. All of this has been obvious for years to anyone paying attention.

So it’s not at all surprising that they were willing to enact a huge tax cut for corporations and the wealthy even though all independent estimates said this would add more than $1 trillion to the national debt. And it was also predictable that they would return to deficit posturing as soon as the deed was done, citing the red ink they themselves produced as a reason to cut social spending.

Yet even the most cynical among us are startled both by how quickly the bait-and-switch is proceeding and by the contempt Republicans are showing for the public’s intelligence.

In fact, the switch began even before the marks swallowed the bait.

During the Senate debate over the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was challenged over support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers 9 million U.S. children — but whose funding lapsed two months ago, and has not been renewed. Hatch declared his support for the program, but insisted that “the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore” — just before voting for a trillion-and-a-half-dollar tax cut that will deliver the bulk of its benefits to the richest few percent of the population.

He then went on to say, “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.”

So who, exactly, was he talking about, and which programs are consuming these billions and billions and trillions?

Was he talking about food stamps, most of whose beneficiaries are children, elderly or disabled? (And many of the rest are working hard, just not earning enough to get by.)

Was he talking about the earned-income tax credit, which rewards only those who work?

Was he talking about Medicaid, which again mainly benefits children, the…

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