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The Tax Bill Is a Trojan Horse that Would Destroy Safety Net Programs

For people living with and affected by HIV, the scariest part of the Congressional Republican’s tax plan is not the tax cuts themselves, but what tax cuts might lead to. The grossly unequal tax cuts in both the Senate and House tax plans will further concentrate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth in the hands of select few at the expense of many.  However, they only constitute the opening salvo in the GOP’s war against programs that serve the vulnerable people. For their next act, Congressional Republicans will use the more than $1 trillion that will be added to the federal deficit by their tax cuts as an excuse to decimate vital safety net programs like Medicaid and Medicare.  “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said in a radio interview on Wednesday, using the Republican Party’s preferred terminology when referring to their desire to slash funding to programs for Americans in need. “It's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt… that's really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

While it is ludicrous and hypocritical to be attacking Medicaid and Medicare as the main causes of the federal deficit while promoting tax plans that would add $1.4 trillion to the deficit, it is very clearly what the GOP plans on doing. Speaker Ryan’s words echoed the sentiments of many of his Republican colleagues in the House and the Senate who seek to drastically cut safety net programs. During a debate on the Senate floor last week over GOP tax plan, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) summed up much of his party’s thinking regarding who “deserves” assistance from the federal government.

“I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything,” Hatch said while simultaneously defending a tax bill that would redistribute roughly 60% of its tax cuts to the top 1% of income brackets. “Unfortunately, the liberal philosophy has created millions of people that way, who believe everything they are or ever hope to be depend on the federal government rather than the opportunities that this great country grants them.”

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) also made unintentionally revealing statements about the GOP’s motives in defense of getting rid of estate taxes for individual estates worth more than $5.5 million dollars. “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,” Grassley saidClearly his flip remarks reveal a delusional belief that poor people are poor as a result of poor choices rather than low paying jobs or any structural issues.

As the Senate and House go to conference next week to reconcile the differences between the Senate-passed and House-passed tax bills, there are a growing number Republicans who are less than thrilled with the way the final tax plan is shaking out. A sizable contingent of Republicans from high-tax blue states like California and New York voted for the initial House bill with the understanding that the repeal of the state and local tax deductions that disproportionately affect them would be addressed.  Thus far, they have not. Similarly, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) voted for the Senate tax bill after receiving promises from President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that they would support passage of legislation before the year’s end to try and stabilize health insurance markets in the wake of the tax bill’s repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate. Now, thanks to the opposition of House Republicans, that looks like it has little chance of happening. 

Due in part to these concerns, advocates have noted that the most substantial work has been taking place at the leadership level while teh conference committee meetings appear to some extent to be conducted for show.  House and Senate leadership are intent on cutting deals to finalize the bill since the more scrutiny that is paid to the bill, the worse it appears.  Given this push by leadership to pass the tax bill as soon as possible, there will likely be votes happening no later than the end of next week.  Please keep an eye out for alerts and for actions that can be taken to stop the bill.AIDS United opposes both the House and Senate tax plans and is vigilantly working to ensure that no combination of the two makes it out of the conference committee. We need your help. You can take action by calling and emailing your own members of Congress and telling them that these bills hurt all Americans, especially those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.  

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, December 08, 2017

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