The Republican War on the Poor
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Much is rightly made about the Republican War on Women. But the Republicans are fighting a more deliberate battle against the poor. It is audacious, insensitive and ugly. Republicans have clearly decided that the War on the Poor is good politics.
Yet the Paul Ryan budget would take two-thirds of its non-military cuts from low-income programs like Medicaid, food stamps, job training and Pell grants for college, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. While the Ryan plan would cut the tax rate for the rich to 25 percent, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center reports taxes for those who make $30,000 or less would go up.
Robert Greenstein, the president of the CBPP, calls it "likely... the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history."
The budget policy is only the spearhead of the war on the poor. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would also reverse as much of Obamacare as possible, including if they can the enormous expansion of Medicaid passed by Congress. Few may realize that Medicaid, the healthcare plan for the poor, was designed only for families; no matter how poor, individuals did not qualify. Moreover, the typical cut-off for qualification even for families was two thirds of the poverty rate. This all changed with Obamacare. Some 15 to 17 million poor Americans would now get healthcare coverage.
Romney and Ryan would also change Medicare radically -- at least the Ryan budget would. Whose pocket would that come out of? The elderly, who are generally low-income Americans, have low poverty rates only because of Medicare and Social Security. They would immediately start to lose benefits if Obamacare were reversed. The Romney-Ryan camp try to cover this up by saying their plan would only affect those 55 and under today. Not so. And the Ryan plan of offering premium support -- vouchers -- rather than guaranteeing healthcare as is now done under Medicare would be highly costly to the elderly.
A recent Center for American Progress report found that ending Obamacare would cost today's seniors $11,000 due to higher premiums and higher drug costs as the famed doughnut hole was set to close. As for those who turn 65 ten years from now, the losses are huge because premiums under Romney-Ryan will not keep up with healthcare costs. That could come to $60,000 in higher payments over the typical 2023 retiree's span of retirement.
It's not just Romney and Ryan among the Republicans who are fighting a war on the poor. Republican states led the legal challenge against Obamacare, which would have provided healthcare coverage to two-thirds of Americans who have none, some 30 million people. They effectively lost in the Supreme Court. But when the Court ruled in June that states could reject the Medicaid portion of Obamacare, five Republican governors said they would, including the governor of Texas, where 25 percent of the population has no healthcare coverage. The national average is about 18 percent. These five and perhaps as many as roughly 20 more, all led by Republican governors, will do so even though the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the costs in the first few years, and 90 percent thereafter. It's worth mentioning that a new study from Harvard University finds that Medicaid does indeed save lives, reducing the death rate in several states where Medicaid had earlier been expanded.