By Robert A. Vella
Republicans narrowly passed a non-binding budget resolution in the U.S. Senate yesterday using reconciliation rules which prevent the use of filibuster by the opposing party or by any dissenting senator. The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed a similar resolution, and now both chambers of Congress will begin the process of finalizing an actual budget bill which – if passed – would be sent to President Trump for signature into law.
This plan pushed by Trump and congressional Republicans can be appropriately described in a single word – austerity. It calls for massive tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations while imposing draconian cuts on benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Although the House resolution is revenue-neutral, the Senate version would increase the federal budget deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
The money would be used for the tax plan’s cut in the corporate tax rate from 36 percent to 20 percent, reduced taxes for most individuals, and the repeal of inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. The standard deduction would be doubled, to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families, the number of tax brackets would shrink from seven to three, and the child tax credit would be increased.
Under congressional rules, the nonbinding budget resolution is supposed to lay out a long-term fiscal framework for the government. This year’s measure calls for $473 billion in cuts from Medicare over 10 years and more than $1 trillion from Medicaid. All told, Senate Republicans would cut spending by more than $5 trillion over a decade, though they don’t attempt to spell out where the cuts would come from.
There are sticking-points in the plan, such as a disagreement among Republicans over elimination of the state income tax deduction; but, with Republicans holding so much political power, it’s safe to assume that severe austerity measures – under the guise of “trickle-down” supply-side economic theory hailed by conservatives – will be rammed down the throats of the very Americans least able to swallow it.