Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, walks through Statuary Hall in the Capitol on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.
But seriously—there is nothing Republicans won’t do to secure tax cuts for the rich.
It was only two weeks ago that the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare (after seven years of presumable preparation) ended in complete failure, leaving Speaker Paul Ryan to meekly state, “Doing big things is hard.” Trump and congressional Republicans seemed content to leave the American Health Care Act’s wreckage in their rearview mirror as they headed for greener, seemingly less divisive, pastures: tax reform.
That now seems to have been a head fake.
Last week, party leaders revealed that the Obamacare repeal is back on the table and negotiations are again under way—an indication that Ryan knows the only way to make his steep tax cuts revenue-neutral is to first repeal Obamacare, and that he is ready to accede to even more extreme provisions floated by the party’s far-right flank in order to do so.
Enter Mark Meadows, leader of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of three dozen far-right members that was instrumental in blocking the AHCA’s passage because it didn’t eviscerate the Affordable Care Act quite enough.
Meadows now calls for a plan that allows states to do away with two of the core ACA protections that the AHCA had previously left untouched. As Margot Sanger-Katz explains in an excellent piece at The Upshot: First, states could rescind the essential health benefits component that requires providers to cover some basic benefits, including prescription drugs, maternity care, mental health services, and hospitalization. Second, states could effectively nullify protections for people with preexisting conditions by getting rid of community rating, a provision that requires insurers to charge the same rate for everyone of the same age.
The result of this proposal, Sanger-Katz writes, would be devastating—while a cancer patient may still be able to get health insurance, it could very well not cover chemotherapy treatment and would cost many times more than that of a healthy person. “Only cancer patients with extraordinary financial resources and little interest in the fine print would sign up,” Sanger-Katz writes. Republicans would likely be able to point to lower premiums because the only people who could afford coverage would be those with a perfect bill of health—and even then, their plans would likely be very stingy.
In short, Meadows wants to turn the AHCA, already a vehicle for an enormous upward redistribution of wealth, into an even more egregious reverse-Robin Hood scheme.
As Robert Greenstein, president of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, writes, even without Meadow’s proposed additions to the AHCA, “the House bill, if enacted, would represent the greatest assault on low- and moderate-income Americans of any law in modern times. It would also represent the largest direct transfer from low- and moderate-income people to the very wealthy in memory.”
The vast majority of tax breaks would go to the top 1 percent. The wealthiest 400 taxpayers in the country would see annual tax cuts of $7 million—$2.8 billion in total—each year.
The victims of that largesse, as the Congressional Budget Office found, would be the 24 million Americans who would lose health-care coverage over the next ten years. Millions more would get diminished or more expensive coverage. Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute finds that the AHCA would cost Americans a staggering $33 billion just in higher deductibles and copays by 2026.
Republicans claim that the ACA repeal’s built-in tax cuts—totaling roughly $70 billion in 2019 alone—will spur job growth because the cuts are mostly targeted at those almighty job creators. That’s not what the numbers show, however. As Bivens finds, repealing the ACA would reduce job growth by 1.2 million by 2019, as tens of millions of Americans are forced to spend more on health-care costs, reducing their disposable income.
If Meadow’s proposal is rolled into the AHCA, it might just bring enough of his ultra-conservative colleagues on board to open up a narrow path for passage in the House. Thus amended, the bill, if passed, would illustrate that Republicans see no level of pain inflicted on average Americans—like people dying of cancer because they can’t afford chemotherapy—that can’t be assuaged with the aloe of trickle-down tax cuts. For that, Mark Meadows is our Trickle Downer of the Week.
Tax Cuts for the rich. Deregulation for the powerful. Wage suppression for everyone else. These are the tenets of trickle-down economics, the conservatives’ age-old strategy for advantaging the interests of the rich and powerful over those of the middle class and poor. The articles in Trickle-Downers are devoted, first, to exposing and refuting these lies, but equally, to reminding Americans that these claims aren’t made because they are true. Rather, they are made because they are the most effective way elites have found to bully, confuse and intimidate middle- and working-class voters. Trickle-down claims are not real economics. They are negotiating strategies. Here at the Prospect, we hope to help you win that negotiation.