The combined House and Senate GOP tax bill is going to hurt more than just our economy. In our fraught political climate, anxieties and concerns are running high with regard to the impacts we should brace ourselves for in various sectors of American society. We reached out to a few of our authors to ask what’s at stake now that the House and Senate have struck a deal on the bill and are preparing a final version to deliver to Trump before Christmas.
The separate tax bills that have passed both the US House and Senate are a direct threat to Social Security and Medicare, the very foundations of our retirement system. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the tax bill will add $1.4 trillion to the deficit, and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that even if the Republicans’ overly-optimistic estimates of economic growth were to occur, $1 trillion would still be added to the federal debt. Where is the money to pay for that going to come from? Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has already made it clear: by cutting “entitlements,” which is the Orwellian term that conservatives have attached to this highly popular legacy of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. As if Americans are not deserving of a decent retirement based on deductions from their own wages that they have paid for throughout their working lives.
As a candidate, President Donald Trump said, “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.” But now, like with so many other issues in which he constantly flip-flops, he appears to be ready to throw these crucial quality-of-life programs under the bus. Last week he said that entitlement cuts will, “take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes."
This is the absolute wrong direction that this country should be going. Rather than cutting these essential safety net supports, Beltway politicians should be looking to expand Social Security, as I outlined in my book Expand Social Security Now!: How to Ensure Americans Get the Retirement They Deserve. By cutting the many tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy, there is more than enough money in the government treasury to significantly increase the monthly Social Security payout. Other countries have figured out how to do it, why can’t we Americans? It’s all a matter of priorities, and no question the current government has the wrong priorities.
The irony of it all is that even 70% of Republicans say they do not want Social Security or Medicare to be cut. These are two of the most popular government programs in history, yet they are going to be placed on the chopping block in order to pay for a massive tax cut for wealthy individuals and corporations. So this is a wholesale breakdown of our representative democracy. All Americans, regardless of political orientation, should stand up and say: “Over my dead body, Washington!”
“The tax code is no place to define what constitutes an ‘unborn child.’ What’s next, giving a Social Security number to a zygote?” So exclaimed an exasperated Rep. Diane De Gette of Colorado, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. The congresswoman’s remarks were in response to the inclusion, in the House version of the tax bill, language that would allow “unborn children,” at any stage of development, to be named as beneficiaries under the 529 college savings plan that carry tax breaks. This provision was included in the Senate version, until it was removed because a sharp-eyed Wall St. Journal reporter noted that including this provision violated the Senate rule known as the Byrd rule, which stipulates that measures requiring only fifty-one votes under the “reconciliation” process cannot contain extraneous elements. This attempt to add such a provision to the current tax legislation is part of a longstanding effort by the anti-abortion movement to establish legal “personhood” for fetuses, something that has repeatedly failed, when placed before voters. Recently, for example, the Department of Health and Human Services, in releasing a draft of its latest strategic plan, defined life as “beginning at conception.” In short, no matter the subject area, or branch of government, extremist anti-abortion politics are ever-present in the Trump-Pence administration.