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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The GOP will kill to get their tax cuts

by digby

I wrote about the health care atrocity coming down the pike for Salon this morning:

A few days ago a Republican Senate aide was asked by a reporter why the GOP leadership felt the need to keep all the discussions for the health care bill completely under wraps and he replied, "we're not stupid." They know that what they are planning is so poisonous to the voters that if they were to let anyone see the monstrosity they are constructing before the bill is hurriedly voted on and signed by President Trump into law, it would cause riots. After all, only 17% of the American people approve of the bill as it currently stands.

The fact is that Republicans are willing to destroy the health and financial security of millions of Americans so they can give massive tax cuts to Ivanka and Jared and others like them who are lucky enough to be vastly wealthy already. This is their first real chance to enact permanent tax cuts since 1986. (See this Vox explainer as to why this is.)They've been chasing this dream a very long time. It is their white whale, so important that even the prospect of millions of people suffering and going bankrupt is not enough to make them think better of it. They are willing to hold hands, jump over a cliff and commit political suicide for it, that's how important it is to them.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is insistent that they get this hugely unpopular piece of legislation done as quickly as possible, preferably before the Fourth of July recess when Senators would have to go home and face their desperate and horrified constituents. The Wall Street Journal reported last night that he plans to release the text later this week then have the Congressional Budget office release its estimate of the cost and the devastation to human lives early next week followed by an immediate vote and then a quick getaway out of town so they can spend the holiday counting up all the money they've just voted to give themselves and their rich friends.

In the meantime, the GOP leadership is dealing with the avalanche of criticism they're receiving the way their puerile president has taught them. Here is Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas:

None of it is "fake news." It's all true.

And here is Cornyn in 2010, tweeting about the ACA:

Unlike the current Senate process the ACA went through dozens of hearings and amendments (many of them offered and accepted by Republicans.)

If they manage to get this passed in the Senate, presumably they will hammer out some kind of compromise in conference with the House where they will pretend to have a big fight over some details that they will then "fix", telling the public that the bill is now going to provide everyone who needs it with cheap, excellent health care. It will be a lie but it won't matter because they'll hurriedly get it to Trump's desk so he can declare that it's no longer a "mean" "son of a bitch" and stage his greatest, signing photo op show on earth.

And then, according to the Wall Street Journal, they will immediately pivot to the next item on their bucket list, you guessed it:  tax reform.

That's the plan anyway. At this point it's unknown whether McConnell can pull it off. He only has two votes to spare and it looks like Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska have called dibs. (It was nice of them to give those to two of the five GOP women Senators since they didn't bother to invite even one of them into their boys only health care club.) We'll have to see if there is even one other Republican Senator with any empathy for the people they are going to make suffer or any sense about the terrible risk they are taking with the American economy. Since they have done virtually no research, held any hearings or consulted with experts (according to health care industry leaders) they may just manage to destroy the entire health care sector, which comprises one sixth of the US economy. But they'll have their tax cuts.

Last week, Ezra Klein wrote a piece that made a "heightening the contradictions" case laying out the probability that this repeal will end up pushing the Democrats to fight for Medicare For All in the future. And why not? They tried to do a nice market based plan that would preserve many of the features that Republicans insist they care about and it was met with fierce resistance from the start. There is little margin for Democrats to try to appease them in the future.

But it's a mistake to see this as a silver lining. For one thing, there is no guarantee that this will be successful. American politics of the last half century are littered with the dead political careers of people who tried to reform it. This may be a turning point but there are no guarantees and it could take years before a new plan is passed and implemented. And there's no telling what the Supreme Court would do to it even if Democrats had full control of the congress and the presidency. So it's very important to remember that in the meantime the human cost of this repeal would be devastating to millions of our fellow citizens.

If the final plan follows the general contours of the House bill, the list of various categories of your fellow Americans who will be hurt is very long. Via Vox, here's a partial list of those negatively affected starting with working poor people who gained Medicaid under Obamacare, seniors, disabled people, and others who qualified for Medicaid even before Obamacare, states hard hit by the opiate crisis, pregnant women and new mothers, people with preexisting conditions, families with chronic conditions, low-income Americans not on Medicaid, older people on the exchanges, children in special education programs, people in states that take a Medicaid “block grant,” who could see dramatic cuts in coverage and Planned Parenthood patients. These people aren't simply collateral damage on the road to a better program down the road.

If the Democrats have finally reached a consensus that they must run on and deliver guaranteed universal health care, that's great. Let's hope they won't have to do it on the backs of all those people whose lives will be ruined by what Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are planning to do next week.