While tax experts continue to exclaim with horror as they sift through the “legislative monstrosity” Republicans rammed through the Senate last week, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday hosted a Facebook live event aimed at detailing the next steps in the fight against both the GOP’s tax plan and the party’s broader economic agenda.
“They want to run up the deficit and then say a high debt is the reason they’ve gotta cut all the things for working people.”
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)One of the most significant battles ahead, Sanders and Warren note, will be over Republican efforts to pivot from “tax reform” to the pursuit of devastating cuts to safety net programs that low-income and middle class families rely upon to put food on the table and afford life-saving medical care.
“Literally minutes after they passed this disastrous [tax] bill in the Senate, the discussion escalates. Of course they’re going to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” Sanders said. “And you know why? This is shocking: the deficit is too big.”
“That’s right,” Warren added, calling the Republican tax plan a “pay off” to right-wing billionaire donors. “They want to run up the deficit and then say a high debt is the reason they’ve gotta cut all the things for working people.”
This GOP plot to use the deficit created by their own legislation to justify deep cuts to social programs is hardly a secret. As the Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein reported on Wednesday, Republicans are discussing their plans openly and proudly.
“President Trump and top Republican officials have signaled prioritizing welfare cuts, including new restrictions on who can receive benefits like food stamps, housing assistance, and direct cash welfare for the poor,” Stein notes, quoting several Republican lawmakers who seem giddy at the prospect of “welfare reform.”
In an appearance on a right-wing radio show Wednesday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) honed in on Medicare as “the biggest entitlement we’ve got to reform” and expressed confidence that Trump would approve of such a plan, despite his campaign promises.
Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) added in an interview with the Post that “welfare reform” is necessary “to achieve three percent GDP growth over the next 10 years.”
“Welfare reform isn’t about fixing the debt, or growing the labor force. It’s about flattering the ideological prejudices of Republican donors.”
—Eric Levitz, New York Magazine
“In my district, a lot of employers can’t find employees,” Blum added. “Sometimes we need to force people to go to work.”
As Stein notes, Blum—like other proponents of “welfare reform”—neglects to mention the fact that most recipients of food stamps and other major safety net programs already have jobs.
Sharon Parrott, a senior counselor the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), concluded that Republicans’ “far-fetched” economic justifications for welfare reform obscure the fact that cuts to food stamps and other social programs would do little more “than take away food from people who need it.”
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