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By DEB ESCOBAR on December 16, 2017

On Friday, December 15, the Congressional Conference Committee published their tax plan, with the vote taking place next week. AFT President Randi Weingarten said, "I didn't think it was possible, but the Republicans have managed to use their Conference Committee to make their tax bill even sweeter for the rich." Although the tax plan is not approved by the majority of taxpayers, our activism has worked to lessen some of the worst provisions in the original bill. The final bill put back the deduction teachers can take for supplies, student loan interest deduction, kept graduation tuition waivers non-taxable and restored at least part of the mortgage interest deduction and deduction for medical expenses. However, the bill is still a huge gift to large corporations, the wealthy, and especially Republican donors at the expense of middle class and has put earned income benefits like Social Security and Medicare at risk.

While people in the top tax brackets will see even more money come their way, middle-class families will be left with a state and local tax agreement that will raise their taxes while forcing cuts to public services like schools, police, and firefighters. The bill will also eliminate the Affordable Care Act mandate, taking health insurance away from 13 million Americans while raising insurance premiums by an average of $2,000. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the plan would increase the U.S. deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next ten years while boosting the economy by only .8 percent. 

Robert Roach, Jr., President of the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans, says that the bill will endanger "the retirement security of millions of current and future retirees." Worse yet, Senator Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and other GOP leaders have freely admitted that cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be needed to fund the adjustments in the tax bill. They call these social safety nets "entitlements," blaming them for the national budget deficit. The GOP plan has always been to go after what is for most really earned income benefits, not a handout. Plans are to cut $25 billion from Medicare next year, and another $385 billion over the next nine years. NYSARA President Barry Kaufmann says, "House and Senate leaders are creating an additional deficit for Americans specifically to ensure that it covers their real intent to cut safety net programs that allow seniors to retire with dignity and to live a healthy life. While they target future recipients, changes impact the current health of the programs and pit one generation against another."

PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW! Call your congressional representatives and tell them that this bill is NOT good for their constituents and you expect them to fight any plans that put seniors at risk or reduce benefits that are needed to remain healthy in retirement. If the tax bill passes, we must continue to be proactive. We cannot stand idly by while Republicans create a retirement crisis. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: On December 19, the House passed the tax reform legislation, with the Senate passing it after midnight on December 20. From there, it will go back to the House for another vote because the Senate Parliamentarian rejected three provisions in the Senate bill, and both houses must pass identical bills. It will then quickly be sent to Trump for signing, which he will do. When this becomes law, we still have much work to do. See the following article for more information and suggested actions.

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