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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/7/12

GOP Offers to Throw Middle Class, Elderly Over the "Fiscal Cliff"

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The Republican Party has a message for the American people: Meet the new deal, same as the old deal. The GOP "counter-offer" to the president's fiscal-cliff proposal isn't really an offer at all: It's a rehash of the tired and extremist right-wing economic warfare which the American people soundly rejected last month.

But a political tin ear is the least of the shortcomings Republicans bring to this debate. This rehash of their old, rejected budget ideas is a formula for reducing the United States of America to a crumbling and poverty-haunted land where the young have no opportunities, the middle class is struggling to survive, and the aged live in misery and fear.

Think we're exaggerating? Take a look at the details, such as they are, and decide for yourself.

The GOP's proposal attacks our health security on two separate fronts. First, their unspecified proposal for $800 billion in "tax reform" almost certainly includes cutting or eliminating the tax provisions which encourage employer health coverage, which currently covers most non-Medicare-eligible Americans. That would throw working Americans into the individual health-care market by the tens of millions, as their "tax reform" makes it financially unfeasible for their employers to keep providing health benefits.

The Republicans also propose to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67, which would force 65- and 66-year-olds to seek private, individual health-care coverage on the open insurance market. And since they'd also repeal the new health-care law, these older Americans would get no help in that process. (Here are eight reasons raising the Medicare age is a terrible idea.)

I've analyzed health data from a number of U.S. employers, and health care costs begin to skyrocket for workers as they move from age 55 to 65. They rise even more steeply after that. The cost of covering these workers will make employers far more reluctant to hire older workers.

And they're going to be desperate to find jobs, since the Social Security age is already scheduled to rise to age 67 under current law -- a blow the GOP would worsen by cutting Social Security benefits for current as well as future retirees. They'd do that by using a lower formula to calculate cost-of-living adjustments -- a calculation that's already inadequate. (This will help you calculate how much this would affect you personally.)

This change would also affect disabled Americans and children on Social Security.

The $800 billion they're offering in "tax reform" is also likely to include cuts to tax deductions that are helping millions of middle-class Americans as they struggle to stay afloat. Likely targets include reducing or eliminating the home mortgage interest deduction, which could lead to millions of additional foreclosures, as well as an end to deductions for children.

The Republicans are also promising $300 billion in "other discretionary cuts." They don't say what they'd cut, but previous GOP Congressional budgets offer clues. Some of the cuts are absurd, like the massive reductions in funds for hurricane warnings. Are they serious? Law enforcement programs that pay for themselves, like U.S. Customs impoundment of drug vehicles? Honestly?

The GOP's massive cuts to anti-poverty programs would lead to increases in the number of poor Americans, including poor children, and a marked decrease in their health and quality of life. Other cuts would lead to a significant jump in unemployment. Still others would make it impossible for any but the most well-to-do young people to finance a college education.

If Republicans were really concerned about Federal deficits, they'd be allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with big pharmaceutical companies, which would save billions. Instead they're blocking it. And they'd be targeting the greed factor in for-profit health care companies, which is one of the leading reasons our country's health care costs are so much higher than those of other countries.

Instead, their last presidential standard-bearer led the way in investing in those kinds of companies, then pushing them so hard that several of them wound up committing Medicare fraud.

And if Republicans were really concerned about the deficit, they'd be raising rates on millionaires, billionaires and corporations, instead of proposing to gain new revenue by "tax-reforming" the middle class into penury.

Why propose such a socially destructive set of ideas? As the prosecutors ask, Cui bono? Who benefits? Under the GOP's proposal, Wall Street would get millions of new customers as Americans scramble to make up for the loss in future Social Security and Medicare benefits. Health insurers would also gain millions of new customers. And lower government expenditures means an even lower tax burden for millionaires, billionaires and giant corporations -- and they're the Republican Party's real constituencies.


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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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