Long-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired in September. CHIP provides coverage for nearly 9 million children in low-income families. The Republicans in Congress have been too busy focusing on the poor millionaires and billionaires to adequately attend to this problem. Republican leaders have hastily thrown together a $1.5 trillion tax cut bill that is a giveaway to the rich. The new tax cuts will do desperately needed things like save people who inherit estates worth 10 million dollars from paying any taxes. Now that Congressional Republicans have finished tending to the needs of millionaires and billionaires, they have managed to scrape together enough money for CHIP to last until March. As the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman points out, the money spent on the Republican estate tax cut could easily pay for CHIP. Republicans, who just voted for a $1.5 trillion tax bill for corporations and the rich, however, are not sure that we can afford to help sick, poor children.
Should you buy holiday gifts for your children or pay rent? Or should you risk going into debt to pay for gifts? These are real questions faced by many American families. For renting households earning less than $30,000, four-fifths of them pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent, which is beyond the threshold for housing to be considered affordable. More than half of these households pay more than 50 percent of their income in rent. After rent, utilities, and transportation costs, the Joint Center for Housing Studies reports that the households in the bottom quarter of the income distribution have less than $500 in disposable income. The Republican Scrooges are doing nothing to seriously address the affordable housing crisis, but their tax bill would give billionaire Donald Trump tens of millions of dollars, enough for him to buy an extra 1 or 2 gold-and-marble-decorated mansions to add to the 6 he already has.
Not enough attention has been given to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act health insurance mandate in the Republican tax cut for the rich. The Affordable Care Act has helped many millions of low- and moderate-income Americans obtain health care, including hundreds of thousands of victims of the opioid crisis. The mandate repeal in the Republican tax cut will lead to 13 million more people without health insurance and higher health care costs for those who remain in the system. Why is this provision in a tax-cut-for-the-rich bill? Because by providing less health insurance to the American people, the Scrooges can free up money to pay for the tax cuts for financially struggling companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Pfizer. If the opioid crisis worsens as a result of a weakened Affordable Care Act, Republicans in Congress can’t claim to be innocent.
In the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times the average worker. Today, the average CEO makes nearly 300 times the average worker. Corporate profits are at record highs. Income inequality is also at a record high. There are roughly 40 million Americans in poverty, and America needs to make significant investments in many of our institutions to realize our full economic potential. Republicans in Congress could have easily chosen to help build a stronger America, but by focusing on the Christmas wish list of their wealthy campaign donors over the needs of average Americans, they have decided to make America less great.
A version of this post first appeared on Policyshop, the Demos think tank blog.