By Joan McCarter / Daily Kos
Take it from a Republican, not just any Republican but a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the Treasury Department in the Bush 41 White House. The fix is in with this Republican tax bill that spikes the deficit.
Literally the second the ink is dry on the tax cut, deficit hawks will emerge from their hibernation, where they have had nary a word of criticism about increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion, to demand that SS & Medicare be slashed b/c the deficit has mysteriously increased.
— Bruce Bartlett (@BruceBartlett) November 27, 2017
As he warned in the Washington Post, “They’ve played this game before.”
[T]he stealth goal of GOP tax cuts is to start down the path toward gutting the New Deal and the Great Society—and if tax cuts pass, they might get away with it. […]
If anything, by enacting a stimulus now, in the form of a tax cut, when the economy is near full employment, the government risks raising inflation, which would mean the stimulus generates higher prices rather than reduced unemployment—when employers can’t find additional workers to meet increased demand, they have little choice but to bid up wages, which get incorporated into prices.
So, why do it? Because for decades, conservative intellectuals have pushed for big tax cuts; less to grow the economy and more because they want to “starve the beast.” They want to force a major overall spending cut that would be a political non-starter without first passing a tax cut that creates a deficit so large, something must be done about it. Spending cuts must be enacted, then, as they would be presented as the only way to pay for the already passed tax cut’s lost revenue.
Note that there are already cuts to Medicare and Social Security in this tax bill—$25 billion from Medicare in the next year alone because of the budget cuts this will trigger. (Remember sequestration? The budget deal from 2013 that was supposed to force Congress to come up with a responsible bipartisan budget because it causes so much pain? It didn’t, and it’s still causing pain.) So that’s a direct hit to Medicare.
Same with Social Security, though it’s sneakier and will take longer to play out. The bill changes the index for figuring out tax brackets from the consumer price index (CPI) to a “chained CPI,” the alternative index that accounts for substitution spending in consumer purchases—the classic example is buying more chicken when the price of beef goes up. If the chained CPI is already being used on taxes, it’s going to be easier for lawmakers to start screaming about the necessity of cutting Social Security and changing it to the chained CPI, too. Because the elderly have more fixed costs—prescription drugs, housing—where they can’t spend less on alternatives, the new index would constitute a cut in benefits for them, one that would get bigger every year as their benefits are keeping up with the inflation they’re experiencing.
That gets easier—much easier—for Republicans to try to make happen if there’s a massive deficit. Even one caused by them. This is their long game, has been for the eight decades since Social Security became law. If they pass this bill, it will become that much easier to achieve.
Jam your senators’ phone lines at (202) 224-3121. Tell them to vote “no” on the Republican tax bill.