Bernie Saunders: Republicans step up their assault on working class America – Irish Times
After failing to pass a “healthcare” Bill that would have thrown up to 32 million Americans off of health insurance, a Bill that was more unpopular than the Wall Street bailout, Donald Trump and the Republican leadership in congress are back. Now, they are pushing one of the most destructive and unfair budget and tax proposals in the modern history of our country – a plan that would do incalculable harm to tens of millions of working families, our kids, the sick, the elderly and the poor. The Republican budget, which will likely be debated on the floor of the US Senate this week, is the Robin Hood principle in reverse. It takes from those in need and gives to those who are already living in incredible opulence. Trump and Republican leaders claim their plan would provide a “big league” tax cut for the middle class. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, by the end of the decade, nearly 80 per cent of the tax benefits of the Republican plan would go to the top one per cent and 40 per cent would go to the top one-tenth of one per cent.
While the Republicans want to give a $1.9 trillion tax break to the top one percent, they are proposing massive cuts in programmes that working-class Americans desperately need.
This budget cuts Medicaid by more than $1 trillion over 10 years – which would throw some 15 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have. Further, this budget does what the Republicans have not yet attempted to do in their previous healthcare legislation and that is to make a $473 billion cut to Medicare, despite Trump’s campaign promises not to cut these programmes.
Poll after poll after poll tells us that the overwhelming majority of Americans do not want congress to cut Medicare or Medicaid and they do not want to provide tax breaks to the wealthy or large corporations.
A recent Pew Foundation poll found that 85 per cent of Republicans and 94 per cent of Democrats want to either maintain or increase funding for Medicare. And 60 per cent of Americans oppose slashing Medicaid, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
A recent Wall Street Journal and NBC poll found that only 12 per cent of the American people believe the wealthy should receive a tax cut; while 62 per cent believe the wealthy should pay more in taxes. Why are the Republicans bringing forth such an absurd budget that, in almost every instance, is diametrically opposed to what the American people want? The answer isn’t complicated. Follow the money.
Today, we have a corrupt campaign finance system that enables multibillionaires, along with some of the most powerful chief executives in America, to contribute many hundreds of millions of dollars to elect Republican candidates to represent their views. As a result, the top one per cent has been able to rig the political system to favour them at the expense of virtually everyone else.
Here are just a few examples. The Republican budget would give the richest family in America, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, a tax cut of up to $52 billion by repealing the estate tax – a tax that only applies to multimillionaires and billionaires. But, if you are a lower income senior citizen you and more than 700,000 other families may not be able to keep your home warm in the winter because of a cut of about $4 billion to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This budget says that if you are the second-wealthiest family in America, the Koch brothers, you will see a tax break of up to $33 billion. But if you are a working-class student trying to figure out how you could possibly afford college, your dream of a college education could evaporate along with 8 million other students because of more than $100 billion in cuts to Pell Grants and other student financial assistance programmes.
This budget gives members of the Trump family a tax cut of up to $4 billion, but if you are a low-income pregnant woman you and 1.2 million new mothers, babies, and toddlers may not be able to get the nutrition you need thanks to a $6.5 billion cut to the Women, Infants, and Children programme. What is alarming is that despite this incredible giveaway for the billionaire class, the Koch brothers and their network say that it’s not enough.
When David Koch ran for vice-president under the Libertarian Party in 1980, he advocated not just to cut Medicare and Medicaid, he wanted to abolish these programmes. He didn’t just want to cut taxes for the wealthy he wanted to eliminate all forms of taxation. At a time when the middle class is shrinking and over 40 million Americans are living in poverty, this budget must be defeated and replaced with a plan that reflects the needs of the working families of our country, not just the wealthy, the powerful and large campaign contributors.
Bernie Sanders is a US senator and sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016