GOP senator says tax cuts must be followed by ‘structural changes to Social Security and Medicare’

2:57 a.m. ET
Senate Republicans started the clock for a final vote on their tax plan Wednesday evening, but among the unresolved demands from GOP waverers is a provision to prevent the bill from adding up to $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years. No serious analysis has suggested the growth from slashing taxes for corporations and other businesses would make up that shortfall, and Republicans haven’t offered any evidence. At a Politico Playbook forum on Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that cutting taxes needs to be followed by cutting spending on popular federal programs.

“I analyze this very differently than most,” Rubio said. “Many argue that you can’t cut taxes because it will drive up the deficit. But we have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.” He suggested reducing benefits and raising the retirement age for future retirees, so people can prepare for the changes. “Tax reform is the economic component of this equation,” Rubio said. “When more people are working, there are more taxpayers and more revenue, but that alone won’t be enough. You are still going to have a debt problem in the absence of spending cuts.”

The broadly unpopular tax bill — rushed through with almost no debate or expert testimony and zero Democratic input — would have wide-ranging and uncertain effects on all Americans. As AARP noted, the legislation already includes $25 billion in automatic Medicare cuts for next year alone, along with $111 billion in other cuts to federal programs, and it would either raise taxes or keep them the same for 6.3 million Americans 65 or older in 2019 and 10.8 million by 2027. President Trump, who is pushing the legislation hard, promised during the campaign he would not change Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. You can watch Rubio’s interview at Politico. Peter Weber

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Trump Made the Most Flagrant Bigots Proud. They See Him as Their Leader. Why Wouldn’t They?

Shaun King
November 29 2017, 1:10 p.m.
I know it’s hard to keep up, but this morning President Donald Trump did something so dangerous, offensive, and problematic that it must be confronted head-on. In my circles, we are wary of playing what we call the “Oppression Olympics,” where one horrible moment of bigotry gets ranked against the next, but I am forced to say that what Trump did this morning is a low moment for a very low presidency.

As he does most mornings, Trump woke up and began his daily tweet-fest. Each tweet could be legitimately critiqued and dissected. This morning, however, there were three very disturbing retweets that we must confront like our lives depend on it — because for some of us, it does. I truly believe that Trump — who, I remind you, is the president of the United States and has over 44 million followers on Twitter alone — has just endangered millions of people.

Trump has just endangered millions of people. The videos Trump promoted are pieces of hateful, anti-Muslim propaganda.
Trump retweeted several videos from a group called Britain First, a far-right, white supremacist group. The videos Trump promoted are pieces of hateful, anti-Muslim propaganda. One of the videos, purporting to be of a young Muslim immigrant assaulting a young Dutch man, appears to be an absolute hoax. There is no indication that the perpetrator of the attack is a Muslim. As my colleague Rob Mackey wrote, Britain First has a long history of distorting videos and releasing misleading information to promote its hateful cause; the group is a purveyor of bigoted hoaxes.

The more you learn about Britain First, the worse it gets. Jayda Fransen, the group’s deputy leader, is a widely known bigot in the U.K. This is not just my opinion: She has been convicted of a hate crime for brutally harassing a young Muslim mother in front of her children. Ten days ago, she was arrested in Belfast in a separate incident and charged with “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior.”

On Wednesday, Fransen was thrilled with Trump’s retweets, posting an all-caps message about it: “DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!” she wrote. After thanking Trump, Fransen then went on a tweeting spree, in which she appears to openly accept that the videos were hateful, Islamophobic, and anti-Muslim.

The British reaction gives us an idea of how bad things are. David Lammy, a Labour member of parliament, was outraged. “Trump sharing Britain First,” he tweeted. “Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours.”

Again: The president of the United States is sharing outrageous hate videos from a convicted hate-monger with the world. Maybe your ability to be disturbed ran out a long time ago, but this is beyond the pale. I have spoken this morning with over a dozen of my closest Muslim friends and colleagues. Without fail, each of them was not only deeply offended by what Trump has done, but they also each felt like the president of the United States just mainstreamed hate and violence against them.

Suddenly a convicted hate leader who most of the world had never heard of feels empowered. She has been amplified and given a platform beyond her wildest dreams. She is now literally thanking God for Donald Trump. Now she is being interviewed by CBS and forced into the American mainstream.

Today, Trump made the most flagrant bigots among us proud. They see him as their leader. Why wouldn’t they?
All of this goes right back to square one with Trump. He had long since targeted Muslims and made an entire religion the focus of his ire. During his campaign, he said, “I think Islam hates us” and threatened to ban all Muslims from coming to the U.S. After entering office, Trump attempted to enact a more limited “Muslim ban,” focusing on only a handful of Muslim countries. With the courts striking down the bans over and over again, Trump has been forced to moderate his policies. But his tweets today prove it is unadulterated hate and Islamophobia that drive him.

Just like he did after Trump’s middling remarks about the violence surrounding a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer, one of America’s leading white supremacists David Duke is again thanking Trump for his actions today. That kind of sums it up. Today, Trump made the most flagrant bigots among us proud. They see him as their leader. Why wouldn’t they?

These hate-mongers are feeling empowered, and so are their followers. Hate crimes are on the rise in the U.S., according to FBI statistics, especially against Muslims. That’s what I mean when I say Trump is putting people in real danger. With Trump promoting the worst anti-Muslim hate, things are steadily getting more and more precarious for our Muslim brothers and sisters in the U.S. and across the world.

I wondered how much worse things could get coming from Donald Trump. Today proves that we’re not even close to rock bottom.

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Republican tax bill paves way for the destruction of Social Security, Medicare, and safety net

By Joan McCarter
Tuesday Nov 28, 2017 · 1:52 PM PST
They’re playing a long game.
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.

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.

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