Republicans Move on to the Next Plan to Cut Benefits for the Poor

The House GOP's budget plan is even crueler than the healthcare bill that just died.

by Eve Peyser
Jul 18 2017, 6:01pm

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan | Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

The good news is that the Republicans' disaster of a healthcare bill, which essentially cut taxes for the rich and increased healthcare costs for the poor, is dead thanks to two additional Republican senators coming out against it Monday evening. The bad news is that this is by no means the end of the Grand Old Party doing everything it can to take away benefits from those who need it most in order to finance tax cuts.

On Tuesday morning, the House Budget Committee released a draft of the 2018 budget, which would increase defense spending to $621.5 billion, $18 billion more than Donald Trump requested in his proposal, and also decrease the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent. The way to pay for all this? Slashing "almost $500 billion from Medicare, $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and the Obama health law, along with enormous cuts to benefits such as federal employee pensions, food stamps, and tax credits for the working poor" over a decade, according to PBS Newshour.

The draft is very far from becoming law. It hasn't even passed the House yet, and since Republicans need Democratic help to pass spending measures in the Senate, it's highly unlikely that anything like those cuts becomes a reality. (Though the Washington Post reports that Republicans are also trying to enact "special procedures that could ultimately allow Republicans to pass legislation over the objections of Senate Democrats who can normally block bills they oppose.")

The draft represents a reversal of one of Trump's central campaign promises: not to reduce Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security spending. Yet Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, was untroubled by this. "It is a bold effort that follows the leadership of President Trump in Making America Great Again," he said of the bill in a statement. "Critically, this budget lays a pathway for Congress to pass, and President Trump to sign pro-growth tax reform into law."

The budget proposal would also prohibit people on disability from collecting unemployment benefits and potentially cut programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income, which provide stipends to low-income Americans who are either elderly or disabled. All this, the Republicans posit, would eliminate the national debt and lead the country to a measly $9 billion surplus by 2027. It's unclear whether this math would even check out, as the bill's authors predict the GDP would grow by 2.6 percent, while the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office assumes only 1.9 percent growth.

"The status quo is unsustainable. A mounting national debt and lackluster economic growth will limit opportunity for people all across the country," the author of the bill and chairman of the House Budget Committee, Republican Representative Diane Black of Tennessee, explained.

But if the Republicans want to be able to boost military spending without increasing the national debt, maybe instead of cutting already underfunded social services they could raise taxes on the wealthy? Just an idea.

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