On Thursday, House Republicans decided that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations are such an urgent necessity, it would be worth adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit to ensure their passage. Hours later, the Republican president declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” — but refused to commit a single dollar of new funds to address it.
To preempt criticism of the latter point, the White House tweeted a meme:
Although the GOP has voted to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit for their tax plan, the president has actually proposed some $5.8 trillion in cuts (to be offset with unspecified loophole closures and spending cuts). According to an analysis from the Tax Policy Center, the top one percent of income earners would collect about 80 percent of that lost revenue.
So, at a time when corporate profits and income inequality are at historic highs — and drug overdoses are killing more than 50,000 Americans a year — the White House is bragging that it has treated the opioid epidemic as though it were 0.017 percent as important as tax cuts for the wealthy.
And even this is an overstatement. Note that tweet’s passive voice: The $1 billion Trump refers to here was appropriated under the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law by Barack Obama last December. This administration hasn’t allocated any new funds to fight the epidemic. In fact, it spent the better part of its first year in office trying to cut $1 trillion for Medicaid, one of America’s primary sources of funding for addiction treatment.
Historically, conservatives have made an effort to hide the fact that they have priorities that almost no one in the United States would endorse. When Republicans voted against economic stimulus at a time of deep recession, or expanding affordable health insurance to low-income people in an era of widespread medical bankruptcies, or relief funding for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, they would insist that they were not indifferent to the suffering of the non-affluent, but were merely convinced that a higher national debt posed a greater threat to the unfortunate than anything else.
The House Freedom Caucus has used this rationale to deny aid to victims of natural disasters and force the government to the brink of debt default. At this very moment, they are blocking reauthorization of the $8 billion Children’s Health Insurance Program until Democrats agree to offset that money with cuts to health-care programs for adults.
And yet, on Thursday, the Freedom Caucus declined to oppose one of the largest debt increases in American history, while many of its loudest fiscal hawks voted to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit for tax cuts — which is about 187 times the amount of money they refuse to add to the deficit for children’s health care.
The mask is off. The debt never mattered. The GOP is a party owned and for sociopathic plutocrats. Republican voters may be skeptical of “big government.” They may hate bureaucracy and red tape. But approximately zero percent of them believe it’s responsible to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit for rich people’s tax cuts, but reckless to add $8 billion children’s health care. In fact, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 75 percent of Republican voters want to prioritize deficit reduction over cutting taxes on the wealthy, while 63 percent say the same about cutting them for corporations.
In a functioning republic, a major political party wouldn’t think of spending trillions of dollars on an unpopular gift to the economic elite while refusing to commit more than $1 billion to a public-health emergency concentrated among its own voters. In the United States in 2017, the Republicans are doing just that — and don’t even feel a need to hide it.