The language of both was constructed in secret by small completely partisan groups without benefit of expert analysis and opposing viewpoints. However, about 6,000 lobbyists for the moneyed set were welcomed to participate in the Senate version for sure, apparently until the very last minutes. Once some of the provisions were public, the whole thing was rushed to a vote, before anybody (including legislators) had a chance to fully examine it, with a lot of behind-the-scenes arm twisting and deal making with Republican holdouts, and with almost no debate.
Hoping to prevent time for the public opposition to coalesce into pesky noisy protest. Both have scant public support because neither was constructed in the public interest, and practically everyone knows it.
The health care bill received abysmal Congressional Budget Office scores, as have the tax bills. Public sentiment ran high against the health care bill and runs high against the tax bills, with only 28 percent approval as of this writing. In both cases, lousy CBO scores and overwhelming negative public response are ignored, perhaps because wealthy donors are the most effective arm twisters of all. CEOs are especially excited about the tax plan and have made it plain to Republican legislators that they’ve had enough of the failures they consider disadvantageous to their profit-taking, record-breaking though it is. In words revealed by one representative, “Get it done or don’t ever call me again.”
The tax bills work for wealthy donors and the Trump cohort in general, not the American people, and we should protest. Written for rich people, they are, according to the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation scoring, the worst pieces of legislation this year.
Before saying any more about the bills, I should again stress the importance of our long-standing bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, and the important role it has played for decades in the legislative process, laying out studied projections for the impact of legislation. They do in-depth and thorough analysis. I want to call attention to how prone today’s Republican leadership is to dismissing CBO projections as inconsequential. This is new and dangerous.
If the CBO goes, we’re in deep trouble. I’ve heard U.S. Rep. Phil Roe say a lot of ill-considered things, but one of the worst was to hear him say CBO scores don’t matter as they don’t always get it just right, as though that were possible. Somehow Republicans are sure they can better predict the impact of legislation than bipartisan experts trained for the job, with Trump claiming to know better than anyone.
I write this just after the Senate Republicans forced their version through to a narrow party-line victory in the early hours of Dec. 2 in as disgraceful a fashion as we’ve ever witnessed, handing in their “finished” 500-plus page document to Democrats (and a lot of their own membership), with many penciled in changes in the margins just minutes before the vote. But then, as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell arrogantly said, “You only complain if you’re losing,” pretending they hadn’t just stooped to new lows with that cheap display.
Conservative pundit Steve Schmidt calls this a complete collapse of rigor around the policymaking process for this country. That’s not how to do $1 trillion legislation that affects 100 percent of the American people.
As the bills go to conference to work out differences between House and Senate versions it seems predictable that the insurance mandate of the Senate bill will remain, with the effect of producing 13 million more people without health insurance, and raising premiums for everyone in the exchanges at least 10 percent. I hope they can look ahead enough to realize the risk of losing the House to a Democratic majority in 2018 if they persist in significant tax hikes aimed at the blue states (as punishment, apparently). Who knows if they will persist with provisions that pick on teachers and grad students, but it’s pretty sure they’ll keep the cuts to Medicaid, and the $28 billion cut to Medicare, predicted to surge to $400 billion within 10 years.
What I’m sure of is that corporations already awash in profits, and people like Pfizer’s CEO who made $17.3 million last year and United Healthcare’s Stephen J. Hemsley, who received $66.13 million in compensation, will indeed thank Trump for his “beautiful Christmas present”.
Much as they try for now to downplay the likely $1.5 trillion increase in the national debt, what must not be ignored is that when it happens, they will wring their hands and say there’s nothing for it but to go after Social Security and Medicare. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, has already spilled the beans on that one. Republicans have really been against both since inception, and now they’ll see their chance. You can bet they’ll run with it, to the detriment of us all.
I’m not sure who said this, but it really is just the Trump way. “Load up debt, grab as much cash as possible, and leave before the party ends.”
Judy Garland of Johnson City is a community health care activist.