It’s budget week in Washington, D.C., with President Joe Biden set to unveil his election year budget in Philadelphia Thursday, and continuing his dare to House Republicans to come up with their own. That’s all playing out against the separate but related stalemate over a debt ceiling increase in which the GOP says they’ll refuse to pay the bills they’ve helped incur, a position Biden and fellow Democrats reject. They have until summer to figure that one out, though the GOP’s apparent complacency over a default is causing some tremors in the markets.
Biden is staying focused on the theme that has kept the Republicans on their heels: protecting Social Security and Medicare, explained in an op-ed in The New York Times. The cornerstone for his budget is to “make the Medicare trust fund solvent beyond 2050 without cutting a penny in benefits” by increasing the number of drugs on which Medicare can negotiate prices and increasing the Medicare tax rate on people earning more than $400,000 from 3.8% to 5%, and reforming the tax so that everyone has to pay it.
“When Medicare was passed, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans didn’t have more than five times the wealth of the bottom 50 percent combined,” Biden wrote, “and it only makes sense that some adjustments be made to reflect that reality today.”
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MAGA Republicans have a different view. They want to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. That means they want to take away the power we just gave to Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. Get rid of the $35 per month cap for insulin we just got for people on Medicare. And remove the current $2,000 total annual cap for seniors.
If the MAGA Republicans get their way, seniors will pay higher out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs and insulin, the deficit will be bigger, and Medicare will be weaker. The only winner under their plan will be Big Pharma. That’s not how we extend Medicare’s life for another generation or grow the economy.
It’s a good counterpoint to the House GOP, which is still flailing in the trap Biden set for them at the State of the Union—they can’t touch Social Security and Medicare, and the only way they can achieve the absolutely absurd and dangerous goal they set for themselves of a balanced budget in 10 years is to cut almost everything else. That’s because they will refuse to raise taxes on rich people. Their refusal to do so means everyone else suffers, which for the party that tried to run on high gas and food prices in 2022 is also pretty absurd.
At least, that’s what the hardliners who have Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy on their tether want to do and they want to force every other Republican to go down with them. They say so out loud. “There is going to be a gnashing of teeth,” Rep. Ralph Norman, one of the maniacs who forced McCarthy through 15 ballots to get the speakership, told the Times. “It is not going to be a pretty process. But that’s how it should be.”
Being utterly bankrupt in the policymaking department, the House GOP is relying on Russell Vought, the former Trump budget director who, the Times says, “has become something of an intellectual and tactical guru to many of the hard-liners in the House Republican Conference.” Yes, an intellectual giant who is basing his entire budget on defunding the “woke and weaponized government.”
His outline: 45% cut to foreign aid; 43% cut to housing assistance, including eventually eliminating the Section 8 rental assistance program; defunding the federal police by whacking the FBI’s budget in half; forcing all of the people who are already working and getting food assistance and Medicaid to do even more work by proving they have jobs to keep getting that help; cutting Medicaid spending by one-third and repeal Medicaid expansion under Obamacare; and eliminating the premium subsidies for people buying health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. That would makes tens of millions of people lose their health insurance.
“We’re in a total strategic cul-de-sac on the right, and our fiscal warriors and strategists have totally failed in the sense that, point to any cuts we’ve had success-wise since 1997,” Vought told the Times. “I actually think that that’s the worst part of the federal spending, because it’s the bureaucracy.”
Instead of rethinking whether they could have more success if they gave up on destroying the federal government, this great brain of the far right says the answer is cutting harder.
Yes, electing the president by popular vote is possible! Joining us on The Downballot is former Vermont legislator Christopher Pearson, an official with National Popular Vote, the organization advocating for states to adopt a compact that would award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide. Pearson walks us through the mechanics of the compact, debunks some common misconceptions, and lays out future steps toward hitting the required 270 electoral votes for the agreement to come into force.