Tax Plans Pave the Way for Massive Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security

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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has a plan: To get rid of nasty deficits, he says, all we need to do is “grow the economy, cut spending.” Under this tax plan, only one of those is likely to become a reality.

Republicans say that the tax plan currently working its way through the House and Senate is supposed to accomplish that first goal: growing the economy. It won’t succeed. Evidence suggests that the tax plan is highly unlikely to create more than a trickle of growth, and that that growth will stay snugly right where the tax plan is putting it: with corporations and billionaires.

The next step, according to Ryan, is cutting spending. And while Congress hasn’t gotten that far yet, the agenda is clear. If a version of the tax plan passes, the next major item of business in Congress will likely include major cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Read My Lips: No New Jobs

The entire tax plan is built around one premise: that cutting taxes causes the economy to grow and creates jobs. The problem is, this doesn’t appear to be true.

study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business found that additional economic growth due to the tax plan would be miniscule — less than a tenth of a percent per year in the near term. That’s not the kind of growth the economy needs to produce more, or better-paying jobs.

Meanwhile, a study from the Institute for Policy Studies found that corporations that paid lower tax rates actually cut jobs — while passing the gains on in the form of higher CEO pay.

Stuck with more or less regular economic growth, the massive tax cuts will just add to the nation’s debt. The nonpartisan Joint Committee for Taxation found last week that under the original Senate tax plan, the United States will be left with an additional $ 1 trillion in debt. By some estimates, that debt would be even higher.

This is not a particularly partisan assessment for those who aren’t currently in Congress. As the bipartisan duo Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles recently wrote in the Washington Post, “Economic growth isn’t going to wash away this debt.”

Welfare Reform Redux: Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security at Risk

As President Trump told supporters at a rally in Missouri, “We’re going to go into welfare reform.” What he didn’t say was that this time, “welfare reform” won’t just target low-income mothers; it will mean drastic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The president has support among his party in the Senate and House: former presidential candidate and Sen. Marco RubioRep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patrick Toomey have all spoken about — or refused to deny — the intention to bring about massive spending cuts as Act II of their agenda.

The tax plan is an important key to this momentum toward bringing back “welfare reform,” which, of course, wasn’t a good idea the first time, either (and which still seems to bring out many of the ugliest stereotypes about poverty). The House and Senate versions of the tax bill have one big thing in common: adding significantly to the national debt.

It may seem counterintuitive at first, but to “small-government” types, this is a dream come true. The increased national debt gives the perfect political cover for cutting social programs. And this reform won’t be limited to traditional welfare programs for struggling parents, which in 2016 amounted to less than half a percent of the total federal budget. Instead, lawmakers will take direct aim at the social programs where the most money is spent, and upon which the most Americans rely: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

For starters, there are cuts that will take place to these programs even if Congress takes the rest of the year off after they pass this tax plan. These are the result of deficit-reducing mechanisms enacted under a 2010 law that would kick in to the tune of a $ 25 billion cut to Medicare this fiscal year, even without congressional action. Sen. Mitch McConnell has said that Congress won’t let that happen, but it’s not clear that he can deliver on that promise.

Even if Congress doesn’t permit automatic cuts to Medicare as a result of its tax plan, members have openly said that they’ll be back to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Cuts to these programs are highly unpopular among both Republican and Democratic voters, and as a candidate, Trump campaigned on promises to keep them intact. However, current signals from congressional leaders, and Trump himself, are that he will break those promises.

The House and Senate bills amount to a tax cut for the rich that will be paid for by the poor.

The Non-Repeal Repeal of the Affordable Care Act

The Senate version of the tax plan has a provision that repeals a foundation of the Affordable Care Act: the individual insurance mandate.

Insurance markets only work if some healthy people pay into the system to cover the costs for those who get sick. By getting rid of the individual mandate, the Senate tax plan will encourage some currently healthy people to skip health insurance — making the costs go up for everyone who chooses to stay insured.

According to a nonpartisan estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, this one change would result in 13 million Americans losing health insurance over the next decade — and those who have insurance can expect their premiums to go up by 10 percent.

The House version of the bill doesn’t include the individual mandate repeal. Thus, one of the biggest questions about any final legislation is whether it will include this attack on the Affordable Care Act.

Don’t Look Behind the Curtain: It’s Not About the Money

While congressional leaders bemoan the expense of Social Security and Medicare — which do cost a lot, at $ 982 billion and $ 604 billion respectively in 2016 — don’t expect them to mention in the same breath that they have voted to increase the military budget to $ 700 billion.

Apparently, some things are worth paying for. Those things would include the F-35 jet fighter, an ill-fated and never-used jet that pro-military Sen. John McCain has called “a tragedy and a scandal,” and slated to cost nearly $ 11 billion this year. They’d also include a $ 20 billion annual bill for nuclear weapons, as well as total payments to for-profit corporations likely to be in the neighborhood of $ 300 billion.

This should clear up any confusion about what supporters of the tax plan and spending cuts are after. It’s not about the money; it’s about priorities.

House vs. Senate: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

The House and Senate still need to bridge their differences. Here are a few high-stakes differences:

• The Senate version includes the repeal of the individual health insurance mandate under the Affordable Care Act, which would result in 13 million Americans losing health insurance. The House version does not currently include this provision.

• The House version treats graduate student tuition as regular income — even though graduate students never actually receive this money, and can’t use it to buy housing, food or anything except an education. The Senate version does not include this provision.

• The House version gets rid of the estate tax — which is paid by , with values over $ 10 million for couples. The Senate version raises the limit on which estate taxes must be paid, but keeps the tax.

Each of these differences — among others — represents an opportunity to limit the damage this tax plan can do, or possibly to derail it entirely.

The tax plan is astoundingly unpopular: just 25 percent of voters approve of it. Activists are working around the clock to defeat this legislation, with feet on the ground and nonstop calls to House and Senate offices. These efforts will continue until the last vote is cast.

Even if one of these tax plans does pass both the House and Senate, this activist work will continue. Efforts to reverse the damage will, and must, grow. A bill this unpopular, that benefits only corporations and billionaires, is not built to last.

The post Tax Plans Pave the Way for Massive Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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New Report Underscores Massive Tax Giveaways to Private Jet Set

For Immediate Release: November 30, 2017

Contact:
Jessicah Pierre (617) 401-1470, jessicah@ips-dc.org
Chuck Collins (617) 308-4433
Josh Hoxie (508) 280-5005

Washington, D.C. – The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) today released a comprehensive report highlighting the massive tax giveaways extended by the tax bill under consideration in Congress to the private jet industry. The report also looked at the significant security threats presented by private jets and the detrimental impact they present to our environment.  

The report: High Flyers 2017: How the Private Jet Lobby Shifts Costs To the Rest of Us, Threatens Our Security, and Fuels a Warming Planet,” authored by Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie shows that while the Republican majority in Congress proposes to extend massive tax breaks for private jet fliers, they also propose nearly doubling fees for commercial airline passengers.

The study examines the $ 56 million dollars spent by the powerful private jet lobbying industry in Washington over ten years to receive more than a billion dollars in the form of outrageous tax giveaways by Congress every year.

“When you think of who benefits from this GOP tax plan, think about the private jet set,” said report author Chuck Collins, lead author of a 2008 report on the same topic. “The private jet lobby and their wealthy constituents have used their clout to shift costs onto the commercial flying public.”

“The bottom line is that every day American flyers, those stuck in the middle seat of commercial flights, are basically paying for the rich and affluent to jet from coast to coast on their Learjets,” said Josh Hoxie.  “While students, teachers, and middle class families see their taxes rise as a result of the Republican tax bill, private jet owners continue to be heavily subsidized. It’s absurd.”

Some of the key findings of the study include:

  • The tax cut package under consideration in the Senate maintains and expands the private jet tax carve out, while the Republican budget plan almost doubles the fees on commercial airline passengers.
  • Private jets contribute less than one-tenth of the resources they use from the federal aviation administration trust fund. Commercial airline passengers heavily subsidize private jet passengers.
  • Commercial jets are taxed at up to 40 times the rate of private jets on the exact same route despite identical needs in terms of transportation infrastructure.
  • Private jets threaten our national security as owners can obscure their identity and passengers face zero security screening.
  • A single private jet trip burns more greenhouse gases than the average American does in a whole year.

The study also calls attention to a push by GOP in Congress which would make it more expensive for commercial airline passengers to fly. A recent provision inserted in the Senate Transportation Appropriations bill would nearly double the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), a fee collected by commercial airports paid by airline passengers on every flight.  If the provision passes, a family of four flying round trip cross-country with a layover would see their PFC rise from $ 72 to $ 104 by next year.  

Read the full report here: http://www.ips-dc.org/report-high-flyers-2017/ 

The post New Report Underscores Massive Tax Giveaways to Private Jet Set appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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Escalation in Mosul Will Cause a Massive Refugee Crisis that Dwarfs the Existing One

“What we’re going to see is a massive level of new refugee crisis that’s going to dwarf the existing refugee crisis,” Phyllis Bennis told the Real News Network after the U.S. announced they would send 560 more troops to Iraq for a push against ISIS in Mosul.

Bennis said while ISIS was defeated in Fallujah a few weeks ago, the city was destroyed, causing people to flee in the tens of thousands. She said there had been no preparation made to take care of those people — “No camps, no water, no food, no medical care… and that’s what’s going to happen in Mosul.”

There has also been no consultation with the people living in Mosul, Bennis said, even though a recent poll showed 76 percent of the population of that city said they didn’t want to be liberated by the Shia militias that fight alongside the Iraqi government. Bennis said Iraqis in Mosul fear those militias because of allegations from other cities that they’ve carried out human rights violations, such as sectarian-based torture, and because of the massive destruction of the city that will follow.

“Yes, it’s good to get ISIS out of control of Iraq’s second-largest city. It’s also true that the process of getting rid of ISIS  is goign to exact an enormous price, not only for the fighters, but especially for the people living under that fight,”  Bennis said. Desert temperatures routinely rise to 110 degrees, Bennis said, “And there’s not water available. There’s not shelter available. There’s not electricity available. This is going to be a humanitarian disaster.”

Bennis said people like U.S. Secretary of Defense Carter need to be asked what preparations they are making for these people. This has been presented as an option of either going to war, or doing nothing, Bennis said. “That’s never the only choice.”

We need to be talking about coalitions for new diplomacy in Syria, Iraq, and Iran; we need to be talking about arms embargoes,” Bennis said.

The post Escalation in Mosul Will Cause a Massive Refugee Crisis that Dwarfs the Existing One appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Oxfam calls for massive post-Ebola Marshall Plan

Oxfam calls for massive post-Ebola Marshall Plan

International agency Oxfam today called for a multi-million dollar post-Ebola ‘Marshall Plan’ to put the three West Africa countries hit by the crisis back on their feet. 

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Massive public pressure needed to rescue climate deal after Warsaw farce and fiasco

Only massive public pressure can rescue a climate deal, warned Oxfam today, as the Warsaw negotiations drew to a close after a fortnight of farce and fiasco.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam said:

“The Warsaw talks opened amidst the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. It is a warning of what climate change could mean for us all yet governments barely seemed to notice.”

“Oxfam walked out of the Warsaw climate talks because enough is enough. Commitments were being flouted. Governments with the power to break the deadlock were acting recklessly and the pervasive influence of dirty energy was wrecking the prospect of a food secure future.

At the talks Japan joined Canada in back-peddling on promised emission reductions. Australia, the US and EU have refused to say how they will deliver on their commitment to scale up climate finance.   And the US, Australia, Japan, Canada, China, India, Brazil and others have pushed through a blue print for a new climate deal which will allow countries to choose their own weak emissions reduction targets. 

“Very few countries can leave Warsaw with their head held high. We have witnessed a race to the bottom in these negotiations and it’s the world’s poorest people who stand to lose the most,” said Byanyima.   

“It’s time to press the reset button. We need to take these critical decisions for our planets future out from behind closed doors and give them back to the people. A global climate deal still offers the best hope of avoiding climate catastrophe but it’s going to take every one of us to make it happen.”

NOTES

Finance: Rich countries made no clear commitments to scale up climate finance to $ 100bn per year by 2020 – a promise made 4 years ago in Copenhagen; and no deadline was set to make the first payments into the Green Climate Fund. Warsaw just about rescued the Adaptation Fund with a total of $ 100 million in pledges by 8 countries – although this is just a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed (Nigeria’s adaptation costs are estimated to be around US$ 11 billion per year between now and 2020). 

Emissions: The gap between projected emissions levels in 2020 and the level needed to keep warming below the 2C target will likely increase as Japan back-tracked on its previous commitment to emissions cuts. For the period after 2020, a vague roadmap to a new climate deal in Paris in 2015 was agreed but there is little to stop countries setting weak targets for emissions cuts in the new treaty. 

Loss and Damage: A new mechanism was established to address losses and damage from climate impacts where adaptation is not possible.  In a final stand-off, the US forced it under existing adaptation arrangements, weakening the support it can provide to developing countries. These arrangements will be reviewed at COP22 in 2016.

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Palm oil workers stage massive protest at sustainability meeting in Indonesia – Mongabay.com

Palm oil workers stage massive protest at sustainability meeting in Indonesia
Mongabay.com
Protesters from 10 Indonesian labor unions and four NGOs descended on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RPSO) meetings in Medan last Tuesday, urging the industry body to take serious steps to end what they claim is rampant abuse of workers on

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Trade Policy Advocates Campaign for Worker Rights & Job Creation in Massive TPP Free Trade Agreement

A campaign led by Citizens Trade Campaign asks for support:

“Last week, President Obama and other heads of state set a deadline of the coming year to complete their massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement.  Please urge your Senators to weigh in with the President now and demand that the TPP focus on workers’ rights and job creation rather than corporate profits.

If it continues on its current course, there is no question that the TPP will become a job killer.  Big corporations hope to use the TPP to undercut working conditions at home and abroad, furthering the global race to the bottom that enriches the few at the expense of the many.  TPP countries like Vietnam are being specifically marketed as low-cost labor alternatives to China, giving manufacturers and retailers alike improved access to exploited sweatshop workers who are paid only a fraction of what Chinese sweatshop workers are paid.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has drafted a letter to President Obama demanding that the TPP include enforceable obligations to protect fundamental labor rights and safeguard against investment and service sector rules that provide incentives for offshoring.  Please urge your Senators to sign onto Senator Franken’s TPP letter today.

The letter will delivered to the President at the end of the week — and will also be shared with negotiators from other countries during the 15th major round of TPP negotiations in New Zealand next week.  Together, we can prevent a NAFTA of the Pacific, but we must act now, while we still can.”

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A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts

This report analyzes the retirement policies of the U.S. corporations leading the “Fix the Debt” campaign, which is calling for reduced spending on senior citizens’ benefits as part of a deal on the national debt.

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The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks

“The ‘Fix the Debt’ CEOs are trying to pass themselves off as noble leaders who are willing to compromise in order the save America from financial ruin,” says report co-author Scott Klinger. “In reality, the campaign is a Trojan horse concealing massive corporate tax breaks that would make our debt situation much worse.”

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Indian Workers Show their Power with Massive Strike – The Indypendent


The Indypendent
Indian Workers Show their Power with Massive Strike
The Indypendent
Tens of millions of workers took part in a one-day general strike in India on February 28 in the country's largest industrial action since its independence in 1947. This is the first time that India's main trade union federations, which are all
All India Strike: Delhi invokes ESMA on power companiesNewstrack India

all 31 news articles »

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