Death and Taxes

Donald Trump really wants you to die so he can give his billionaire buddies tax cuts. The failure of the Republican lead congress to come up with a plan to kill the Affordable Care Act really put a crimp in that plan. After their bill couldn’t even make it to the House floor, Trump decided to scrap destroying health care and move on to his tax cuts. Apparently the size of those tax cuts hinges on ending the mandated subsidies in the ACA. Without those cuts, his tax plan would no longer be revenue neutral which is unacceptable to the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus. The plan would have to pass with only Republican votes since the tax cuts Trump is proposing are toxic to Democrats and may not appeal to moderate Republicans either.

Since neither Trump’s or House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan stands a snowball’s chance in hell of passing the House, it’s back to square one, kill the ACA along with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. If this sounds familiar, it is, because every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has tried it and, fortunately failed. But, hey, we know these people are insane because they keep trying to do the same thing. So here we go again

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney—previously a House GOPer known for being a budget hawk—kept the door open for President Donald Trump approving of some kind of overhaul of Medicare or Social Security.

Referencing the proposal oft-floated by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to privatize Medicare by transforming it into what’s known as “premium support,” Mulvaney told CNBC’s John Harwood that his “guess is the House will do either that or something similar to that.”

Harwood brought up Trump’s campaign pledge not to touch Medicare and asked whether he would veto it.

“That’s not a really conducive way to sort of maintain a relationship between the executive and the administrative branch,” Mulvaney said. “Let them pass that and let’s talk about it.”

Earlier in the interview, Harwood mentioned that congressional Republicans like Ryan were hopeful that they could change Trump’s mind on cutting social benefit programs.

“We’re working on it right now,” Mulvaney, who has a long history of seeking to privatize Medicaid, said, referencing Trump. “He went through the list and said, ‘No, that’s Social Security. That violates my promise. Take that off. That’s Medicare. That violates my promise. Take that off.’”

Asked about whether the Social Security disability program was off limits, Mulvaney added, “I don’t think we’ve settled yet.”

And if you can’t kill the social safety net that way, try this

Following reports that President Donald Trump is dumping the tax plan he campaigned on and exploring a host of other options, advocates for Social Security are sounding the alarm, pointing to a proposal to eliminate the program’s primary source of funding: payroll taxes.

Though it is not yet known how far along the White House proposal has progressed, those who want to protect Social Security say they are taking the news “extremely seriously.”

“Even if this is just a trial balloon, we want to puncture it as quickly as we can,” said Nancy Altman, the president of the advocacy group Social Security Works.

According to the Associated Press, lobbyists aligned with the Trump administration are pushing for the elimination of the 12.4 percent payroll tax, which is the overwhelming source of revenue for the Social Security trust funds, which provide benefits to the elderly and the disabled. [..]

Altman, who told TPM that she only found out about this plan from press reports, called it a Trojan Horse.

“They will sell it as a tax cut for the middle class, but really this is undermining middle class economic security, and the ability to retire,” she said. “They’ll say they’re ‘saving’ Social Security, but basically they want to scale back or get rid of the program.”

No other dedicated funding source has yet been floated to replace the payroll tax as a funding mechanism for Social Security, and the odds of Republicans supporting a new tax are slim.

Mark Mazur at the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, who served as assistant secretary for tax policy in the Obama administration’s Treasury Department, said eliminating this particular funding source would upend a “basic social contract.”

“The Social Security system is largely based on the premise that individuals make contributions—by paying taxes—during their working life, and then in retirement they receive benefits,” he said. “If you remove that funding source, you change that contract. And unless you have a well-defined revenue source come in to replace it, you’re essentially weakening Social Security.”

Without a replacement revenue stream, Social Security would have to compete for funding with every other federal program, a prospect that advocates worry would lead to the eventual gutting of the system.

If that fails, just threaten to bleed it all to death

President Donald Trump is contemplating a new strategy to get repeal of the Affordable Care Act through Congress: threatening to torpedo insurance for millions of Americans unless Democrats agree to negotiate with him.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal that appeared on Wednesday, Trump made a warning. If Democrats won’t talk repeal, the president said, Republicans might decide to cut off some subsidies now flowing to health insurers offering coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges.

“I don’t want people to get hurt,” Trump said, sounding a bit like a mobster describing a protection racket. “What I think should happen — and will happen — is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”

Those subsidies are a really big deal. Without them, insurers would have to jack up premiums ― by an average of 19 percent for typical policies, according to a Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation study. That increase would be above and beyond any other increases in the works. Many insurers would probably exit the markets altogether. [..]

In the Journal interview, Trump said he thought his threat would bring Democrats to the table because “they own Obamacare” ― but acknowledged that “the longer I’m behind this desk and you have Obamacare, the more I would own it.”

Recent polls suggest that transformation has already taken place. In a new Kaiser Foundation poll that appeared last week, 61 percent said they would blame Trump and the Republicans for problems with the health care law, while just 31 percent said they’d blame Obama and the Democrats.

Yes, they really want us all to die faster.