I'll get back to that tweet from the California Congress member in a bit. First:
In case you slept through the weekend, in the early hours of Saturday morning, the Senate voted along party lines 51 to 49 to pass their version of H.R. 1: Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the sweeping tax reform bill that pretty much steals money from everyone else and gives it to corporations and the very rich.
Many different senators were adding and subtracting and changing items in the bill – often hand-written in the margins - until about two minutes before the vote took place. Here is Montana's Democratic Senator Jon Tester:
No one, not a single person in that legislative body had read the entire bill, let alone had any time to understand it or weigh the consequences before voting.
And don't apply any “what-about-ism”. Do not let the fact that Democrats have done this same thing in the past deter you from heaping contempt for those 51 yea-voting Republican senators, nearly every one of whom lied to the public about who will benefit and who will lose from the bill.
There are only three reasons, all of them corrupt, to vote for a bill that will affect every American and crush tens of millions of them:
⚫ To appease the Trump base who scare the crap out of Republicans who are up for re-election in 2018
⚫ To deliver on legislative promises to their rich and powerful campaign donors
⚫ To have this one and only thing to show the public that they did something this year besides sit on their thumbs
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act now goes to the conference committee to iron out the differences between the Senate version that passed on Saturday and the House version that passed on 16 November.
When that work is done and the bill is reconciled, it will be voted on in both chambers of Congress. Over the weekend, some pundits predicted that could be as soon as this week.
WHAT'S IN THE BILL “FOR” ELDERS
There are painful shockers in H.R. 1 for just about everyone who is not in the top one percent of wealth holders but we are concentrating on elders here not because I think they are more important than the poor, working and middle classes but because that's who we are at this blog.
With the caveat that especially with all the late-night, last-minute alterations, no one yet knows or understands the entire bill, here are some of the reported changes that will affect old people if the bill becomes law.
AUTOMATIC MEDICARE CUTS
Sarah Kliff, writing at Vox, notes that H.R. 1 is really a health care bill that affects more than 100 million Americans who rely on the federal government for their health insurance. The bill, she writes,
”...includes tax cuts so large that they would trigger across-the-board spending cuts — including billions for Medicare. The last time Medicare was hit with cuts like this, patients lost access to critical services like chemotherapy treatment.”
(Can you tell how terrified I am right now about that?)
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) explains in more detail why this would happen:
”...the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that the tax bill would trigger an automatic $25 billion cut to Medicare, as required by the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (PAYGO).
“In response, the President’s Office of Management and Budget would be required to cut Medicare payments to health care providers...”
SOCIAL SECURITY COLA REDUCTION
Both the Senate and House versions of the bill would replace the standard cost-of-living index currently in use (CPI-U) to calculate COLA adjustments to Social Security, military and federal civilian retirement benefits with the more slow-growing chained CPI. As the NCPSSM notes:
”According to the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, three years after becoming law, calculating the COLA based on the chained CPI would decrease Social Security benefits by about $130 per year (0.9 percent) for a typical 65-year-old.
“By the time that senior reaches 95, the annual benefit cut would be almost $1,400, a 9.2 percent reduction from currently scheduled benefits.”
REPEALING THE OBAMACARE MANDATE
Among the reasons AARP opposes this tax bill concerns people who are not quite old enough for Medicare, those between age 50 and 65:
” Eliminating the mandate would leave 13 million additional Americans without health coverage over the next decade, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
“Repealing the mandate would also drive up premiums by roughly 10 percent in the health insurance marketplace; 64-year-olds could see their tabs jump by an average of $1,490 a year.”
THE MOST FRIGHTENING CUT OF ALL
The most insidious cut in the tax bill is the stealth move (by design?) to eventually eliminate Social Security, Medicare and other social programs that stupidly uninformed legislators and partisans refer to as “entitlements” instead of earned benefits. It goes like this:
Because the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the tax bill will balloon the federal deficit by an unfathomable $1.4 trillion, the bill will become the Republicans' reason to enact their long-term, dearest wish – to kill these programs altogether.
Newsweek explains how Republicans intend to play out this goal:
”[Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) and] Other key Republicans have hinted that after the tax bill passes they’ll take on welfare and entitlement programs.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that he wants Republicans to reduce spending on government programs in 2018, and last month President Donald Trump said that welfare reform will, 'take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes.'
“Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Thursday that 'liberal programs' for the poor were wasting Americans’ money.
"'What's coming next is all too predictable: The deficit hawks will come flying back after this bill becomes law,' said Senator Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.) 'Republicans are already saying “entitlement reform” and “welfare reform” are next up on the docket.
“'But nobody should be fooled—that's just code for attacks on Medicaid, on Medicare, on Social Security, on anti-hunger programs.'”
Again, as California Representative Barbara Lee tweeted on Friday,
President Donald Trump wants this bill on his desk before Christmas. All the “in-the-know” people are saying it will sail through Congress and into law without a hitch.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't complain, shouldn't tell our senators and representatives to vote with the American people and not against them.
Do it. Find their contact information here. Polls show that only about 25 percent of Americans want this bill, so make a nuisance of yourself with your Congress people, and do it today.