Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to let the Senate healthcare bill die. Despite having postponed a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act until after the July 4 recess, he's still bargaining, hoping to send a revised version to the Congressional Budget Office by Friday.
Republicans hope the CBO will provide a more palatable score for their new bill—one that somehow doesn't reiterate how, under their plan, 22 million people would lose insurance, while premiums and deductibles would increase. (Oh, and the possible return of mass institutionalization for the disabled, rolling back the clock to the days when HIV was a death sentence, and a future where healthcare is contingent on your ability to crowdfund from strangers. There's a reason the Republican plan is less popular than Nickelback.)
Negotiations continue in secret, so it's hard to say whether McConnell is looking to make the bill less cruel (to woo moderates) or more so (to convince conservatives). At least one moderate Republican reportedly told President Trump that critics can tar the GOP plans—both the current Senate bill and a similar one that passed the House in May—as a massive tax cut for the rich. Elizabeth Warren, for example, took to the Senate floor, saying, "These cuts are blood money. People will die. Let's be very clear. Senate Republicans are paying for tax cuts for the wealthy with American lives."
And at least one billionaire agrees: the legendary investor and philanthropist, Warren Buffett. "You could entitle this, you know, Relief for the Rich Act or something," Buffett told PBS, "because it—I have got friends where it would have saved them as much as—it gets into the $10-million-and-up figure."
Unlike some people, Buffett shared part of his 2016 tax return to show just how much he'd save. Using the House bill, which is very similar to the Senate's proposal as far as tax cuts are concerned, he said, "I would have saved $679,999, or over 17 percent of my tax bill."
He also pointed out that members of Congress make $174,000 a year and they'd only need to have a total yearly income higher than $250,000, as a married couple, or $200,000 as a single person, to take advantage of the tax cuts they're proposing. "They have given themselves a big, big tax cut if they voted for this."
Buffett has made this point before. Last month, at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, he said, "It is a huge tax cut for guys like me. And when there's a tax cut, either the deficit goes up or they get the taxes from somebody else." At the same time, he called ever-rising medical costs "the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness." Other countries have contained their healthcare costs while ours continue to rise, putting us at a disadvantage—including in the manufacturing industries Trump is so eager to revive. Buffett told PBS he thinks a single-payer system would be a more effective way to bring down medical costs.
Buffett's current net worth is about $77 billion, most of it stock in Berkshire Hathaway, where he's been chairman since 1970. According to his PBS interviewer, last year he made over $19 million and paid an effective tax rate of 16.3 percent. That's about the same as a married couple with no children making $136,000.
In other words, Warren Buffett doesn't need a tax break disguised as healthcare "reform." And he's not afraid to say so.
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