Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, March 10th, 2017.

With Republicans, It’s Always About Privatization and Tax Cuts

Trump Maladministration

Seriously, the end result of Republican ideology is to privatize all government functions, including the military; expect all these functions to pay for themselves out of profits; and then cut taxes to zero. Well, except maybe for sales taxes and user fees. Anyone reading this who thinks that would be a great idea … must be a wingnut.

Catherine Rampell writes for WaPo,

Let’s abandon the pretense.

Republicans’ “health care” bill is not really about health care. It’s not about improving access to health insurance, or reducing premiums, or making sure you get to keep your doctor if you like your doctor. And it’s certainly not about preventing people from dying in the streets.

Instead, it’s about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts — tax cuts that will quietly pave the way for more, and far larger, tax cuts.

And she makes a good case for it. Why are the Republicans ramming through this mess of legislation that nobody likes as fast as they can? Because they need this to cut more taxes and privatize Medicare, and they know that if people actually have time to look at this monstrosity of a bill, it will never pass. It’s now or never.

The American Health Care Act, which has been opposed by nearly every possible stakeholder of nearly every ideological orientation, is being rushed through Congress with non-extreme vetting. In fact, it passed out of one committee in the middle of the night, overseen by a committee chairman who just a day earlier criticized Obamacare for being “written in the dark of night.” …

… Part of the reason they have rushed the bill through committees is to front-run an (inevitably unflattering) analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

In the meantime, other experts and government bodies have scrambled to compile their own estimates for the bill’s effects.

The ratings and analytics firm S&P Global has ballparked the number of people who would lose their insurance at 6 million to 10 million; others have offered figures as high as 15 million and 20 million. Meanwhile, a group of health researchers calculated that the bill would increase costs for enrollees on the individual insurance market by, on average, more than $1,500 per year when it would take effect, and by more than $2,400 per year by 2020.

Oh, and the Medicare trust fund would be exhausted by 2024, according to Brookings Institution researchers.

And the point is …

… tax cuts. Specifically, $600 billion of them, predominantly benefiting the rich.

And the connection is …

The presence of expensive tax cuts in a bill purportedly about health-care reform is not a side effect; it’s the entire point. They make it easier for Republicans’ (much bigger) individual and corporate tax cuts to sail through the Senate with minimal Democratic obstruction in a few months’ time.

Why? Under normal circumstances, Democrats would almost certainly filibuster the coming tax overhaul, preventing it from ever getting to a vote. But Republicans can take the filibuster option away by using the “reconciliation” process, which is an option if, and only if, the tax bill doesn’t increase government deficits in the long term, relative to existing law.

How do you keep tax cuts from increasing deficits relative to existing law? One useful tool is to change existing law — that is, to move the goalposts. Cutting taxes in the Obamacare repeal bill today lowers the revenue baseline against which a tax overhaul plan will be judged tomorrow.

Allegra Kirkland writes for TPM:

By repealing a payroll tax on high earners that provided a critical additional revenue stream for the Medicare trust fund, the GOP’s proposed American Health Care Act would speed up the fund’s exhaustion by as many as three to four years, according to estimates from health care policy experts. …

…  Critics say this provision is a prime example of the GOP bill granting tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the country’s neediest citizens, and that it paves the way for Medicare privatization. One former Obama administration official argued that by endangering the program’s funding, so-called “entitlement hawks” like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) will have cover to argue that Medicare as we know it is financially unsustainable—then realize their long-held dream of turning it into a voucher program.

Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services during the last two years of the Obama administration, has been ringing this bell loudly since the AHCA was made public Monday night.

“I think it’s a smarter play for them to move Medicare closer to a crisis, try to get this bill done, and then build a case about why this crisis needs to be addressed,” he told TPM in a Thursday phone interview.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities figured out how much Trumpcare tax credits would actually provide compared to Obamacare subsidies. In some states — mostly red ones, ironically — people will end up paying thousands of dollars more out of their own pockets every year for insurance. At the same time, the Republican bill is expected to increase the deficit because of the tax cuts. The White House has pre-emptively attacked the CBO, anticipating their bill will get a bad grade.

So … costs more, provides less. Lose/lose! That’s the Republican way!

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