Healthcare and Taxes May Prove How Big a Political Issue Taking Things Away May Become

Pamphlets advertising for the Affordable Care Act are seen at Sunshine Life and Health Advisors store setup in the Mall of Americas on November 1, 2017 in Miami, FL. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Indianapolis  There’s a funny thing that happened to the Republicans as they tried to take away the healthcare guarantees embedded in the Affordable Care Act for all Americas: they made it more popular! The message they missed from citizens and voters is that they may have wanted improvements in the pricing, coverage, and general package, but they sure as heck didn’t want to do without the healthcare provided already in Obamacare.

Now after one ridiculous proposal after another the Republicans find themselves owning the problem, proving that you can’t beat a horse without a horse, and you certainly can’t beat a horse with a dead horse, which was the strategy they tried over the last year. A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC found that more than 50% of Americans would blame the Republicans for any rise in prices for health insurance and only 37% would fault the Democrats. Voters in Maine, given the opportunity to expand Medicaid in their state after the governor had vetoed expansion proposals approved by the legislature four different times, overwhelmingly approved the measure. Other efforts to put the question on the ballot in 2018 are also now moving forward in other states that could drive voters to the polls to punish any opponents of health care protection.

When they failed to get healthcare off the table, the current administration strategy has been to starve it, especially when the enrollment period opened up for only six weeks between November 1st and December 15th. The allocations for recruitment and navigation were slashed to the bone. Other executive orders from the President attempted to cut subsidies and bleed it out with other cuts. How did the public respond? A record number, more than 600,000 people, have enrolled in the early days of enrollment, according to reports from the 39 states using the federal government’s marketplace.

There’s a powerful message in all of this, and it will dangerously imperil Republicans as they continually attempt to avoid it.

The same phenomena is likely to be repeated in the wake of the Republican’s corporate-and-rich-welfare and assistance program, which they are trying to call tax reform. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already been forced to admit that some middle class families will pay more to help corporations and the rich, rather than receiving a break. The Senate has already backed away from some of the House takeaways like for medical deductions and certain interest deductions. None of them had the stomach to outright deny mortgage interest deductions, but even a proposal to cap them for the rich has kicked a hornet’s nest. There is a big battle coming around the efforts to deny deductions from federal income taxes for the amounts paid in state and local taxes, with many high tax, Democratic states seeing these efforts as pure political punishment. There are other issues around childcare credits. The list is endless, and each battle prolongs the war, and it’s a war the Republicans are challenged to win. In a long game it’s hard to sell a bait-and-switch claim that this is all about the middle class when in fact the middle class loses more and more each time they look at the details, while the rich and corporations make out like bandits. Add in the current scandal of the Paradise Papers revealing how the rich, corporations, and deep pocketed institutions are avoiding taxes, because they can afford to find the loopholes to the tune of hundreds of billions, while the public is being played for suckers, and where can the Republicans find to hide from the voters?

Heck, they don’t even have the votes tight within their own caucus, so they may be saved from another disaster still by a principled few in their crew among true fiscal conservatives and even fewer moderates, but as health care is demonstrating, people are watching, and increasingly it seems there will be an accounting.


Death and Taxes Now Will Depend on How Rich You Are

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

New Orleans   I used to have a teacher who delighted in repeating, while teaching some subject or another, that the only thing that was ever certain, was “death and taxes.” It turns out the only thing that is crystal clear about the current GOP proposal on taxes is that only death will be certain. Taxes? Not so much.

For one reason they are going after the estate tax or “death tax,” as the rich and the President like to call it with a vengeance. They may not be able to take it with them, but they sure as heck don’t want anyone else, including the government, to get a piece of it.

The proposal on its face seems not to give the rich a break since it keeps the nominal rate at 39.5% for the millionaire brigade. Looking past the face to the rest of the proposal finds that the rich get a treasure trove from the other goodies in the proposal, including foremost the corporate tax cut itself from a nominal rate of 35% down to 20%, freeing up vast amounts for holders of securities and coupon clippers.

For the biscuit cookers, this is a harder proposition. 13 million folks making less than $100,000 individually and more than about $50,000, will see their nominal rate and taxes increase. A union plumber, operating engineer, and many others making $30 or more an hour will be right there in the mix for a tax hike. The Republicans don’t like the Affordable Care Act, as we must all know by now, but if you are stuck with high medical bills, they want to eliminate your exemption for those bills. Not surprisingly the AARP says that proposal is a nonstarter for the elderly, who of course routinely have high medical bills. Perhaps part of the reason the Republicans think they can eliminate the estate tax is because most regular Americans won’t have any money left when they die once they pay their medical bills? All of those trying to pay the trillion dollars in student loans, your interest deduction will go missing.

Do the Republicans really want to hurt people this way? Probably not, but they really want to give money back to their corporate and rich donors, and they really don’t want a bipartisan plan hashed out with the Democrats that might be less kind to their minders. If they don’t balance the giveaway with some terrible pain, then they can’t pass the mess with a simple Republican majority and would need Democratic votes as well, changing the whole calculation.

But, this is only the opening bid to start the lobbying and contest between the public and the electeds, the lobbyists and the officeholders. This is the House as well, and not the Senate where every vote counts because of the thin margin there. Even in the House the punishment being inflicted on “blue” states on mortgage deductions and elimination of breaks for state and local taxes among other items, might cause them some trouble, and the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee has already said as much, and that he recognizes the need to fix this before its done.

So let them all smile for the cameras now, and let’s see what happens once all is said and done. Don’t hesitate to throw your own weight into the fight. It’s going to matter.