Lose Medicare/Medicaid in Exchange for Puny Tax Cut

Perhaps you thought the 2017 Budget was already passed, but that was only a Budget Plan. What happens with the budget will, in the end, depend on what happens with the tax plan. If the Republicans go over the mandated rise in the budget deficit by offering rich folks a few too many perks then they will end “reconciliation” rules in the Senate and have to come up with 60 votes for the tax plan (which they do not have). That’s their problem. The tax plan and the budget plan are connected. But this is also a problem for all of us and one we perhaps do not see. As for me, when I think about the 2017 Budget Plan all I see is the cuts it will make to Medicare/Medicaid. In fact these two cuts sort of keep flashing in the forefront of my mind as if tricked out in flashing neon lights.

So all this time, as we are watching the GOP rush a tax reform plan through the Senate, I still see those “Medicare and Medicare cut” signs flashing away, as if I were living in a cheap noir hotel room. If passed, then the tax plan in the Senate has to make a “mash-up” with the House version, and then come up for a final vote. If the Senate version is killed now, then that will put the tax plan to rest, at least until the GOP turns it into a zombie tax plan, giving it a “life after death”. It will also make the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid less justifiable.

The Republicans insist that the middle class will like this tax “cut” while the Democrats, and many bipartisan number-crunchers say that this is a tax “cut” for the wealthiest Americans. Charts show that some in the middle class will get small cuts, in the $1-2,000 range, and others in the middle class will actually see their taxes rise. Since those neon Medicare/Medicaid lights are still flashing behind my eyes, I have to ask if we will save enough in taxes to make up for what we will lose in benefits. (And if the tax plan overturns the individual mandate, seniors aren’t the only ones who will lose health care.)

Perhaps you don’t need Medicare or Medicaid right now so this trade-off doesn’t concern you. But why are you, not a rich person, being asked to pay for tax cuts for wealthy corporations and Americans? Why are we, if I include myself because I am in the lower middle class, losing benefits we will need someday, or that many Americans need right now, while some people are enabled to stockpile more money than they can spend in several lifetimes?

Well here is the real reason I am taking all this so personally right now. This is a picture of my mom at her 100th birthday party this August. She’s a cutie isn’t she? But about two months after this happy occasion mom started to go downhill. She lost her mobility, which meant she was spending more time in bed. Being able to rest in bed sounds sort of like a reward for a busy life raising eight children, keeping a house, and coming up with a variety of ways to contribute to the family income. Well not so much as it turns out. Apparently there are bad things that happen to old, frail people who spend all of their time in a bed. I will not go into detail because my mom would hate it. Suffice it to say, that my mom, who has been on Medicare for 38 years now finds herself having to go on Medicaid to pay for the 24/7 care she needs at a nursing home.

If you think the government makes it easy to get on Medicaid then you have never had to do it. There are all kinds of financial guidelines that must, without exception, be met. Even a person like my mom who has always made do with a very small social security income has a tough time complying with these financial guidelines. My sister has been working on this paperwork for over a year and my mom has still not been qualified for Medicaid. The decision to put a beloved (or even a less-than-beloved) parent into a nursing home is difficult enough without the rigorous task of qualifying for Medicaid. There is lots of threatening language in case anyone might try to cheat the system, although it might not scare people who actually cheat.

If we keep letting Republicans cut our safety net programs to pay for their fantasy that giving more money to corporations will create exponential growth in the economy and in jobs, then we are crazy. These Republicans have no idea if growth will happen as a result of their tax plan and their budget, and all the evidence suggests that these cuts will not produce an economic renaissance in America all on their own. But we do know that cutting safety net programs means cutting budget items that benefit the middle class and that this will be a hardship on all of the middle class at some time in life.

My mom will probably not have to worry about losing her Medicaid but how about your mom or dad? What will your family do if a parent needs care that is more extensive than you can afford to give? Will we go back to the days when people experienced a sometimes long and undignified death without palliative care? I would not want that for my mom, nor do I want that for me. So which do you choose, a puny and temporary tax cut, or keeping your social safety net assistance.

These Republicans are so mean that they might cut our benefits even if we don’t get a tax cut. They have been like ugly trolls just drooling to cut us loose for years. We do pay taxes but probably not enough taxes to pay for safety net programs without those upper middle class and wealthy folks who pay more taxes. I suppose if rich folks no longer accept that our society is a collaboration between all Americans to keep our culture operating on a level that is comfortable and hygienic, then, in the long run, there is not much we can do about it. But to my mind, we will no longer be the democracy/republic we take such pride in. You should be against the Republican Tax Plan and against the Republican budget plan. Both are shite (because swearing in British English doesn’t actually seem like swearing).

Addendum (12/3/2017)

A colleague of mine on tremor.com, James T McGuiness, reminds all of us that seniors are not the only ones who could be affected by budget cuts to Medicare/Medicaid that supposedly prevent the tax bill from exploding the deficit. Americans with disabilities will be harmed by this tax bill in the same indirect ways as seniors will and the fact that these cuts happen only after the tax bill is passed and, therefore are hypothetical at this point in time, insures that almost no one is paying attention. That all of our lives are being so powerfully affected by bills that are drafted in secret, never debated and passed in the middle of the night by reconciliation which requires only a simple majority (of one) makes the whole business truly reprehensible, and yet the Americans who will be most affected have been led to believe that the tax bill will be good for them. I assume they can only believe something that is completely against their own real interests because they have been turned into “pod” people a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers by a con man who pretends to understand them. In this case it looks like the GOP is giving us a hug, but it is actually a pretty big, although somewhat delayed, slap.

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