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Trumpcare and Trump Budget

Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty was the high water mark of American liberalism so far. It was an audacious, multifaceted program with the stated goal of literally ending poverty in the United States. From Food Stamps to Head Start, from the Appalachian Regional Commission to Aid to Families with Dependent Children, from Medicare to Medicaid, the War on Poverty committed the nation to do battle against poverty in what was then the richest country on earth. It was, along with major civil rights laws, effectively the completion of the promise of the New Deal.

Republicans since Ronald Reagan have been vocally committed to rolling back most, if not all, of these achievements. They have had limited success, with policies that underfunded the War on Poverty and undermined American industry. Most people rely upon and benefit from one or more of these programs. Republicans harp upon the virtues of self-reliance and individual responsibility (everyone should have an equal right to sleep under bridges if they so choose), and a lot of folks like the sound of that, and don’t much like the government. But tell your average person that he’s going to lose his health insurance, or have to pay more for less of it, and he will be more skeptical.

The War on Poverty, we can now see, could not eliminate poverty as long as we still have a highly unequal and capitalist economy, but it could and did help millions of individuals cope with the consequences of being born on the bottom of the heap.

So, as a result of the GOP subversion of the War on Poverty, the poverty rate is as bad as ever in depressed rural areas–and in the inner cities– even as tens of millions of people have received concrete benefits that have helped them individually to improve their lot in life. The War on Poverty, we can now see, could not eliminate poverty as long as we still have a highly unequal and capitalist economy, but it could and did help millions of individuals cope with the consequences of being born on the bottom of the heap.

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Enter Donald Trump and the GOP congressional majorities. They got a lot of support from poor people, particularly rural whites, who feel like racial minorities are getting a lot of help while they (the rural whites) have been left behind. And they have been left behind. Trump convinced many that all that could change if they elected him President. He was going to bring back coal. He would keep American jobs in America and keep out those nasty immigrants. He would enforce law and order. He would cut environmental and workplace regulations to free business to create more jobs. We know the litany well.

We can now see how cynically hollow the rhetoric was. After railing against Wall Street in the campaign, all his major appointments for managing the economy went to Wall Street and major corporations like Exxon Mobil. The health care bill passed by House Republicans and supported by Trump would, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) make health insurance either unaffordable or unavailable to 23 million people who have coverage now. People who currently get subsidized coverage from Medicaid would make up 14 million of that 23 million, as the Republicans plan to shrink Medicaid over a decade and convert it to block grants to the states. The states would then have the choice of finding the money to cover people, or cutting them off. Who loses, big-time? Low and lower middle income people.

Older people not yet on Medicare could see their premiums rise astronomically: The New York Times estimates that a 64-year-old with annual income of $26,500 could see premiums go from $1700 per year to $16,100! Who loses, big-time? Your grandma on a low income from a pension or a low-wage job.

The Trump budget makes it worse. While Defense, Social Security and Medicare are left largely untouched, major domestic programs that target low-income people are drastically cut. We already considered the cuts to Medicaid, virtually flat-lining that program over ten years. The Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps) is to be cut by 25 percent over ten years. Such draconian cuts are found throughout the budget, especially in programs targeting lower income families. Perhaps the most extreme cut is to the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which is to be cut by 96 percent, from $37 billion to $1.5 billion. People could die as a result of this. Who loses, big-time? Low income people.

john peeler

And it’s all to make room for a YUGE tax cut for rich folks like Trump.

John Peeler

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