Wednesday, December 13, 2017

GOPlins’ “tax reform” fraud is a precursor to Ryan’s assault on Medicare ...

… and everything else that provides economic security to millions of Americans. Read on.

When you perform any task, you are faced with what psychologists call a speed-accuracy tradeoff. Speed-accuracy trading is ubiquitous: “Who has not encountered that a decision, made in haste, often leads to err? Who has not felt the deleterious effects of time pressure on ultimate outcomes?”

Apparently not Republican lawmakers. Erica Werner writes in the Washington Post that Precision sacrificed for speed as GOP rushes ahead on taxes.

Republicans are moving their tax plan toward final passage at stunning speed, blowing past Democrats before they’ve had time to fully mobilize against it but leaving the measure vulnerable to the types of expensive problems popping up in their massive and complex plan.

Questionable special-interest provisions have been stuffed in along the way, out of public view and in some cases literally in the dead of night. Drafting errors by exhausted staff are cropping up and need fixes, which must be tackled by congressional negotiators working to reconcile competing versions of the legislation passed separately by the House and the Senate.

The specific legislation that probably will become law, sold as a middle-class tax cut but featuring a massive corporate rate reduction at its center, is moving from release toward passage without any hearings, unusual for a bill of such magnitude. And as it tumbled along it picked up some startling new features, to the surprise of affected industries, Democrats and in some cases Republicans themselves.

As they got additional drafts of the bill, Democrats were incensed at some of what they found, including new breaks for the oil and gas industry, and a provision that appeared aimed specifically at helping Hillsdale College, a small liberal arts college in Michigan that doesn’t accept federal funding and has a large endowment funded by wealthy conservatives — including the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

An angry Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stood on his chamber’s floor to declare that “the federal treasury is being looted.” In their one victory of the debate, Democrats offered an amendment to strike the Hillsdale provision, and with the help of four Republicans it passed. [Scriber: only 4???]

The frenzy, and I would call it a frenzy, to get it done and have a Christmas present for America — number one, I think it’s unnecessary; it’s a self-imposed deadline, and number two, it makes the possibility for error much greater,” said Steve Bell, a senior adviser at the Bipartisan Policy Center who was staff director of the Senate Budget Committee during the 1986 tax effort. “This is a rush without a reason other than the political desire for a Rose Garden signing ceremony.”

See? Speed-accuracy trading.

That’s not the only source of error in the Republicans’ “rush without a reason.” Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports Trump’s Treasury Dept embarrasses itself with one-page ‘analysis’.

As regular readers know, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured lawmakers and the public that he had dozens of officials working on creating a detailed analysis of the Republican tax plan he helped craft. The report, Mnuchin added, would be available before Congress voted.

None of that was true. The New York Times reported two weeks ago that officials inside the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy claim to have been “largely shut out of the process” and haven’t “worked on the type of detailed analysis” that Mnuchin described.

Two weeks later, the good news is that Donald Trump’s Treasury Department has prepared an analysis and made it available to the public. The bad news is, it’s so absurd, I almost feel sorry for the officials who work there. Politico reported:

The Treasury Department said Monday that the GOP tax plan currently before Congress would need an assist from other Trump administration priorities to pay for itself.

Tax cuts alone aren’t enough, Treasury said in a one-page analysis, citing welfare reform and infrastructure spending as additional boosts to the economy.

The entire document is online here (pdf).

There are three key angles to this, and let’s start with the substance of the Treasury’s document. Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have sworn up and down that the GOP’s tax package would pay for itself, ignoring the conclusions of every independent analysis, including data from Congress’ own Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Treasury Department argued this morning that the Republican promise will prove to be true if (a) we assume that the regressive tax breaks supercharge the economy; and (b) policymakers also agree to pass Trump’s non-existent infrastructure plan, Trump’s non-existent welfare reform plan, and wait for Trump’s regulatory reform plan to work wonders.

In other words, the Trump administration is conceding that Republicans are wrong about one of the core promises of the party’s own tax plan. The Treasury effectively declared this morning, “The tax plan will pay for itself if everyone agrees to pass a bunch of other proposals, which haven’t been written, and which have nothing to do with the tax plan.”

Second, let’s not skip past that “welfare reform” tidbit too quickly. Trump’s Treasury Department is now saying, in writing, that Republicans can pay for tax breaks for the wealthy, not only by raising taxes on the middle class, but by cutting benefits to the nation’s most vulnerable. The document is describing class warfare at its most depraved – taking money from food-stamp beneficiaries, and giving it to millionaires.

And third, the entire Treasury Department analysis literally fits on one page. If we exclude the headline, the document isn’t quite 400 words (by comparison, the blog post you’re reading right now is 622 words).

What the Trump administration released this morning isn’t an analysis of tax legislation; it’s a joke. …

Right, but let’s follow John Cassidy’s take on the “welfare reform tidbit.” He predicts The Next Step in the Radical Trump-G.O.P. Agenda: Gut the Welfare State in his New Yorker column. ”Paul Ryan has indicated that the tax bill is only a precursor to a renewed Republican drive to achieve other long-standing domestic priorities.”

In a radio interview on [a week ago] Wednesday, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, talked about the budget-busting, reward-the-rich G.O.P. tax bill—he didn’t describe it that way, of course—and what will happen after Trump signs it into law, assuming the House-Senate conference can agree on a final text. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said. Programs like Medicare and Medicaid “are the big drivers of debt,” he went on, “so we spend more time on the health-care entitlements, because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

Even by the standards of today’s Republican Party, Ryan’s comments were pretty brazen. No such worry about deficits came up when the G.O.P. proposed slashing taxes for the wealthy. This about-face wasn’t anything new, however. For the G.O.P., tax reform was always part of a larger agenda: dismantling the welfare state, rolling back the regulatory state, and crippling the Democratic Party. Other prominent Republican politicians have made similar comments to Ryan’s, including Senator Marco Rubio and Trump himself. In a speech last week, the President talked about moving onto “welfare reform”—seemingly oblivious to the fact that Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress dismantled the primary welfare programs back in the late nineteen-nineties. About the only big federal means-tested programs left are Medicaid and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Evidently, these will be on the Republican hit list, even though the primary populations they serve are the sick, the elderly, and children.

Ryan’s remarks illustrate why he and other Republican leaders have refused to break with Trump despite his frequent outrages, which, most recently, have included endorsing a U.S. Senate candidate, Roy Moore, who stands accused of repeatedly molesting teen-age girls. …

Ryan needs only Trump’s signature on some bill - never mind the details. As long as it chips away at programs like ACA, CHIP, TANF, Medicaid, Medicare, and eventually Social Security, Trumpism can fall but Ryanism will triumph. Trump might fall along with Moore (who, surprisingly for Scriber, lost last night’s election), but Ryan will keep chugging along like a Stephen King version of the energizer bunny who shreds the social safety net.

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