The federal deficit is skyrocketing, wages are stagnant, and corporations are hoarding most of their windfall tax savings instead of investing in jobs and innovation.
|Every election cycle, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare urges people to vote in their own best interests and reject candidates who can’t be trusted to protect Americans’ retirement security.
But as far as Mitch McConnell is concerned, the economy’s biggest threat is “entitlements” – the retirement nest eggs the government owes Americans who spend their entire working lives paying into Social Security and Medicare.
Before the ink was dry on Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax cut for the rich, the U.S. Senate majority leader and GOP lawmakers in both the House and Senate were declaring that the ax would have to fall on funds that retirees can’t afford to live without.
Few Republicans are admitting as much on the campaign trail, or bringing up the unpopular tax cuts. But in mid-October, McConnell earned this headline from the editorial board of New Jersey newspapers under the NJ.com banner:
“Republican leader tells the truth: He'll gut Social Security and Medicare.”
“Mitch McConnell, whose contempt for the middle class is so profound that it gives kleptocracy a bad name, has offered up another issue for voters to ponder: If the Republicans hold on to both houses of Congress, he suggested last week, the preferred GOP fix for the massive deficit created by their tax plan is to take a meat ax to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.”
The attacks that are eroding the Affordable Care Act and the push to end protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions are also tied into McConnell’s scheme to pay for tax cuts on the backs of working people and retirees.
McConnell made the admission in an interview after the Treasury Department’s monthly report showed that the budget deficit had climbed to $779 billion, the highest level since 2012. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects the deficit will hit $1 trillion by 2020.
“You won’t hear Republicans say much about it the next few days – certainly not before the polls close next Tuesday,” International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. “But make no mistake: If Mitch McConnell and the Paul Ryan Republicans hold onto power in Congress, one of their first orders of business will be draining the programs you’ve paid into all these years and claiming the deficit left them no choice.”
Public opinion is decidedly against the GOP tax cuts for the wealthy. In a recent Marist poll, 60 percent of overall respondents – including 43 percent of Republicans – said the government should reverse the tax cuts to lower the deficit; only 21 percent were in favor of doing so by cutting spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Republicans expressed no worries about the budget deficit when they shoved the tax bill through Congress last December despite warnings from nearly every nonpartisan analysis. President Trump signed it immediately.
"Not only will this tax plan pay for itself, but it will pay down debt," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed. He failed to mention that as an individual with a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he’d be among those who would benefit the most.
McConnell said, “We fully anticipate this tax proposal in the end to be revenue neutral for the government if not a revenue generator."
But corporations have overwhelmingly failed to pump their tax cuts back into the economy in the form of new plants, high-tech investments or raises for workers. Instead they are lining shareholders’ pockets with fatter dividends and buying millions of shares of their own stock, while wages stagnate as inflation rises.
CNBC, specifically addressing Trump’s tax cut promises, said, “Presidents often make extravagant claims for their policies. But rarely are they proven so false so fast as Donald Trump’s claims about tax cuts and deficits.”
Yet Republicans still want more. The House voted in early October to make the current tax cuts permanent, adding another $545 billion to the deficit. With the election looming, McConnell wouldn’t touch the bill in the Senate.
That legislation is separate from the president’s spur-of-the-moment claim last week that Republicans would quickly pass a 10 percent middle-class tax cut.
In one of endless responses ranging from bewilderment to ridicule, Forbes personal finance columnist Howard Gleckman said it was another of the administration’s “grandiose, attention-getting promises that never get fulfilled. Taxes are exhibit A.”
As Republicans candidates try to avoid the subject, their opponents want voters to understand what’s at stake.
Toward that end, Democrats released a report last week based on calculations from the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. It shows that the size of the holes McConnell wants to punch in the social safety net equals the $2 trillion his party has passed in unfunded tax cuts over the past two decades, the bulk of them in 2017.
"It is a dollar-for-dollar transfer of benefits to those who need help the least paid for by those who need help the most," political consultant Phil Schiliro told NBC News.
That doesn’t have to happen, Stephenson said, as long as voters cast ballots for candidates who will put working people and their families first. He praised the IBEW volunteers across the country who have spent weeks and even months knocking on doors, making phone calls, leafleting and more to help everyone understand why it’s so critical to vote.
“We can make sure that Social Security and Medicare are there when we need them. We can ensure that no one with a pre-existing medical condition is denied affordable care. And we can protect the strong retirement and health care benefits we enjoy as IBEW members by electing people who will fight for our right to organize and bargain collectively,” he said. “The power is in our hands next Tuesday.”