GOP budget hurts the poor and helps the rich

By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook

The Republican-controlled Congress has found a back door to eliminate health care for 23 million Americans and cut the federal safety net from under millions more with its 2018 federal budget worthy of Scrooge, as we approach Christmas and the season of giving in honor of Christ’s birth. In three attempts, they were not able to get the votes to kill the Affordable Care Act (Obama care). However, last week, both the House and Senate agreed on a Budget Bill that will get the job done by denying funding to support the health care program. The rest of the Budget that targets the poorest among us with cuts to food programs and social services for children, families, and the elderly leaves us to wonder if there is a Christian among them. Though programs for the poor make up only one fourth of the budget, they received fifty percent of the cuts in this plan.

Here is a summary of the $5.8 trillion in cuts to the poor over the next 10 years based on the 2018 Budget Plan passed. Cuts to health care for low to moderate income Americans will total $1.5 trillion. These cuts will not only eliminate health care for 23 million, but will cut funding for essential benefits and increase premiums for those left with coverage. It will cut funding for Medicaid that will virtually eliminate Medicaid expansion by block granting it to the states without adequate funds for the program. The plan would, also, force a work requirement on sick people left on the program, with an additional cut of $110 billion. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest anti-hunger program, will be cut by $150 billion; cutting millions of Americans from the program and reducing benefits to others. Another $500 billion in cuts include entitlement programs like school meals for low to moderate income children, Supplemental Security Income for disabled children and individuals, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and increased eligibility requirements making it more difficult for families to qualify for the Child Tax Credit. Other programs on the chopping block include child care, foster care, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

The Budget includes more than $90 billion in cuts to education, social services, and student aid programs. It significantly scales back Pell Grants that assist nearly 8 million low to moderate income families afford college for their children. In addition, $120 billion will be cut from the Student Loan Program. I hope the historic Black colleges and universities that actually believed they would be helped by this administration are paying attention.

Further, this Budget will eliminate the federal Social Services Block Grant that helps states provide the poor, including the elderly, with their most basic needs. It also includes a plan to privatize Medicare, one of America’s most successful government programs, giving private insurance companies complete control over quality and premiums. It is Medicare now, but Social Security will be the next entitlement targeted for privatization. The excuse will be that the Trust Fund cannot survive much longer unless privatized. Don’t believe it. The Trust Fund is safe for several decades to come. If greater funding stability is needed, the answer is not privatization. The answer is to lift or remove the cap to allow deductions on incomes above the current salary cap of $127,200 at the 6.2 percent rate. People who earn less contribute to the Trust Fund with a deduction on 100 percent of their earnings. Further, there is no salary cap for Medicare deductions.

The most uncharitable part of this budget, however, is the Republicans’ plan to use money saved by cutting programs for the most vulnerable in order to give $2.6 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and corporations in the country over the next ten (10) years.  Democrats voted 100% against this draconian plan; but they are in the minority in Congress and cannot stop this mean-spirited plan by the Republican majority. However, this is not about political party affiliation as much as it is about right and wrong. If this Plan is allowed to be implemented, it will totally eliminate the safety net for the poor and make us a nation of great wealth for a few while most Americans sink even deeper into poverty.

It is up to people of good conscience from all faiths to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves, and demand that our government use our tax dollars to narrow the gap between the rich and poor in our country. There is no pride or honor in doing less.

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