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BY DEB ESCOBAR, on December 20, 2017

Early this morning, the Senate passed what one New York Times op-ed called the "biggest tax scam in history." A sweeping tax reform which promises to give the middle class a tax cut will actually add $1.4 trillion to the national debt over ten years, with most of the benefits going to the top 1%. This bill will have repercussions across our nation, starting with the fact that it will leave 13 million more people uninsured because the bill ends Affordable Care subsidies. This will destabilize the insurance market, causing massive hikes in premiums for everyone, including those on retiree insurance plans. 

Perhaps most troubling have been the statements from GOP leaders in both the House and Senate that state they will look to balance their ridiculous giveaway to the rich by cutting what they call "entitlements" -- Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The cuts to Medicare may begin without any additional legislation because of "pay-as-you-go" rules that require that any tax cut that isn't paid for (and this truly is a deficit bill) will trigger automatic spending cuts under Congressional rules. Though GOP leaders have promised they would waive the pay-go requirement, this would contradict statements they have given to the press which blame the national debt on earned benefits programs.  In addition, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has stated that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will be required to order a sequestration to eliminate the overage. OMB will have no choice but to order reductions for the anticipated $136 billion shortfall in 2018. If Trump delays signing the legislation until after January 1st, the reductions would not occur until 2019. He may choose to do this so that the reductions hit after the 2018 elections. If this happens, Medicare would be cut by about $25 billion, but there would also have to be major cuts in other programs to make up the shortfall. According to FactCheck.org, some of the programs mentioned for possible cuts would include "Medicare, agricultural subsidies, student loans, the Social Services Block Grant, parts of border security and mandatory spending in the Affordable Care Act other than exchange subsidies (already gone in the bill) and Medicaid expansion...Most affected programs other than Medicare would be wiped out." Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, wants to see spending cuts but says that pay-go triggered cuts would "not be trimming the budget with a scalpel, a hammer or even a sledgehammer, but with a wrecking ball."

Legislation could waive the pay-go requirement, but such a bill would need 60 votes in the Senate. We must continue to advocate to Congress, asking them to protect Medicare and other social safety net programs from any such cuts. Democrats have some leverage at long last because 60 votes will be required for any government funding legislation to pass. They can use this leverage to protect Medicare, demand protection for Dreamers, and reverse the FCC's end of Net Neutrality. We must contact our Congressional representatives and insist on protection for these vital programs.

We here in New York State have a critical objective. Four NY Representatives voted yes for the tax bill even though the cap on deductions for mortgage interest and real estate taxes will hurt our citizens and will certainly have repercussions on school funding as well. Claudia Tenney of CD-22 (Broome, Delaware, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, and Ulster counties), Tom Reed of CD-23 (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Yates counties along with parts of Ontario and Tioga counties), John Katko CD-24, (Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Oneida, Otsego, Seneca, Tioga and Tompkins counties), and Chris Collins CD-27 (Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, and Livingston counties and parts of Erie, Monroe, Niagara and Ontario counties) must be replaced. If you live in any of these areas or have friends or family who do, organize them to support their opposition candidates. Find out who is running against them, and donate to their campaigns. Phone banking can be done from home to help candidates in any area. Even though Stefanik and Faso voted "no" on the tax bill, we still need to work to replace them as well. 

This issue is critical for retirees. Find out more by signing up on the NYSUT MAC app at https://mac.nysut.org/, and consider joining New York State Alliance for Retired Americans, Indivisible groups, or other organizations such as Swing Left. Don't get angry, get involved.