Columnists challenge Tax Reform


THEIR VIEW

Tax Cuts for the Rich, Paid for with Your Health Care

So-called “tax reform” would have the same result as health care repeal: millions lose their care, while millionaires get a tax break.

By LeeAnn Hall

Guest Columnist

When Republican leaders tried to repeal health care in the spring and summer, many Americans raised the alarm and made a ruckus. We asked hard questions, looked at the independent analyses, held town halls, told our health care stories, and took to the streets.

Because of that overwhelming opposition, plans to slash health care to pay for corporate tax breaks failed. Republican leaders haven’t given up. In fact, they’ve already begun voting on a scheme to slash taxes for corporations and multi-millionaires — paid for by cuts to health care.

Now the plan to raid our health care is buried in the GOP tax scheme and budget process. Here’s how they’re putting it into place.

On October 5, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution that cuts $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and other health programs, capping and starving Medicaid.

On top of that, the budget also slices almost $500 billion from Medicare — and proposes turning it into a privatized voucher program and raising the eligibility age to 67.

The Senate budget proposal is just as bad. It would cut Medicaid, Medicare, and the financial assistance people get to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

For the better part of 30 years, I’ve been organizing people and communities to win quality, affordable health care for all. These cuts will hurt all of us, especially people who need health care the most: seniors, people with disabilities, children.

The payoff? Our elected representatives get to dole out tax breaks to their big-money donors and corporate friends.

Don’t expect House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the others behind this scheme to be honest about it. They’re saying their tax cut plan for corporations and multi-millionaires will help ordinary people.

Their idea of who ordinary people are is pretty strange.

The richest 1 percent of Americans will reap 80 percent of the tax cuts, the non-partisan Tax Policy center calculates, while taxes for many moderate and low-income people would go up. The richest 5 percent of Americans will gain income from these tax cuts — but the rest of us will lose income once those cuts are paid for.

The rich get richer and the rest of us lose income, health care, and other essential services like housing, food, and education. (And don’t think they won’t come for Social Security next.)

We’ll wind up with what Republican leaders wanted from health care repeal: tens of millions of people thrown off their health care to clear the way for more than $1 trillion in tax breaks for the mega-rich.

All this comes at a time of soaring corporate profits — with prescription drug corporations continuing to rake in exorbitant profits by price-gouging patients on lifesaving medications.

Instead of requiring Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug corporations — which would mean huge savings for the public — Republican leaders in Congress want us to pay for corporate tax cuts with our health care.

What part of “no” didn’t they understand?

LeeAnn Hall is the co-director of People’s Action and a member of the executive committee of Health Care for America Now. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

So Many Tax Lies, So Little Time

Three figures can explain the impact of Donald Trump’s tax plan.

By Josh Hoxie

Guest Columnist

In most cases, it’s best practice to cut through the media noise and go straight to the source to understand what’s happening in public policy. Donald Trump’s tax plan is not one of those cases.

The president is crisscrossing the country giving speeches to crowds about his plan to cut taxes on the very wealthy. Of course, he’s not using those words, but that’s what his plan will do.

If you want to understand what’s in Trump’s latest tax plan, skip the bluster and look straight at the numbers.

Three figures in particular shed a light on the actual impact of the plan.

80 percent.

Trump’s tax plan is essentially a collection of tax cuts for individuals and businesses. Of the cuts on the individual side, 80 percent of them will go to the wealthiest 1 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

When Trump says he’s out to help the middle class and not the rich, his words are directly countering the actual impact of the plan. This could be because he doesn’t understand his own plan — a valid possibility.

More likely, though, it’s because he’s lying through his bleached teeth.

Trump’s tax plan would repeal the federal estate tax, also known as the inheritance tax.

This often misunderstood portion of the tax code is a levy on the inter-generational transfer of immense wealth, and by immense I mean more than $11 million. Only the wealthiest 0.2 percent of households will ever pay the tax, an exclusive group of multi-millionaires and billionaires.

Trump and others would like you to believe the estate tax is levied on the $10,000 your grandmother left you, or the $400,000 house your parents want to pass down. Again, not the case.

Don’t get it twisted: The estate tax only impacts the extremely wealthy, and eliminating it benefits only them.

15 percent.

Trump often says he’d like to see the corporate tax rate drop to 15 percent, down from its current statutory rate of 35 percent. Cutting the rate by more than half is going to usher in a jobs boom like we’ve never seen before, he rants.

Nuh-uh.

First off, the plan overall would cost a whopping $1.5 trillion over 10 years. That alone is enough to pay more than 18 million elementary school teachers to improve our education system over the same period of time. (Maybe then we’d know the basic arithmetic that our president chooses to overlook.)

Second, it could lead to a dramatic drop in jobs.

A recent report from the Institute for Policy Studies looked at profitable companies who, thanks to loopholes, paid an effective tax rate of 20 percent or less. Those companies, on average, cut their workforce even while the rest of the private sector saw a 6 percent jobs increase.

Cutting taxes doesn’t create jobs, the report concluded. It does, however, contribute to higher and higher CEO pay. Just what we need!

The Trump tax plan is a giveaway to the ultra-wealthy, and selling it as anything other than that is a misrepresentation of the facts. Don’t take my word for it — look at the numbers!

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Taxation and Opportunity at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Your Boss Shouldn’t Get to Have ‘Religious’ Objections to Your Health Care

Expanding “corporate citizen” rights into health care could ultimately affect everybody, not just women.

By Martha Burk

Guest Columnist

When Obamacare — aka, the Affordable Care Act — became law in 2010, it mandated coverage of birth control without co-payments.

Some employers didn’t like the rule, and Hobby Lobby hated it so much that the company filed a lawsuit to stop it. Company owners said they didn’t believe in contraception and claimed that covering it for female employees violated their religious freedom.

Understand, the Obama administration went to great lengths to exempt churches and church-related institutions from the rule, while still guaranteeing their female employees the right to birth control if they wanted it.

Then the Supreme Court stepped in, siding with Hobby Lobby and ruling that “closely held” corporations with religious objections could join religious employers in excluding birth control from their insurance plans.

Now the Trump administration has gone a giant step further. They’re now allowing any and all businesses, including publicly traded ones, to also cite “religious or moral objections” in denying their employees contraception coverage.

Wait a minute.

Corporations not only have religious freedom but now moral principles, too? I didn’t even know they went to church, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one get down on its knees and pray.

On the other hand, I know women — who are actual people — have religious freedom under the Constitution, too. What about their right not to be forced to bow to their employers’ religious beliefs or highly suspect “moral” principles?

Massachusetts, California, and the ACLU have filed lawsuits to stop the rollback. Good luck. Besides Hobby Lobby, the conservative majority in the Supreme Court ruled years ago in the Citizens United case that corporations have constitutional rights, and they’ve consistently ruled in favor of their corporate buddies over women in employment discrimination cases.

On top of that, six of the nine justices are male, and most of them of rather conservative religious persuasions. The odds look to be stacked against women.

Expanding so-called corporate citizen rights deeper into health care could ultimately affect everybody, not just women.

Christian Scientists are opposed to all kinds of medical treatment, including for diabetes, cancer, and meningitis. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in blood transfusions. There are undoubtedly other religious taboos on medical procedures.

Enterprising businesses that want to save money could cite “religious freedom” to exclude virtually any medical treatment from their insurance plans. Surgery, antibiotics, immunizations — you name it.

Where will it end? We don’t know. Even if the lawsuits are ultimately successful, a decision could take years.

All I know is that I don’t want my neighborhood corporate citizen making my health care decisions.

Martha Burk is the director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and the author of the book Your Voice, Your Vote. Follow Martha on Twitter @MarthaBurk. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

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THEIR VIEW