Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Things Are About to Get Much Worse for Poor Americans


Derek Thompson Nov 9, 2016

In the last eight years, President Barack Obama oversaw the largest growth in federal spending to reduce inequality since the Great Society of the 1960s. In the next four years, President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives will probably try to undo almost all of it.

President Obama’s anti-inequality crusade has had three main pillars. First, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, brought the percentage of uninsured down from 16 percent in 2010 to 9 percent, the lowest in U.S. history. Second, tax benefits passed in the 2009 stimulus, and extended throughout the last seven years, raised the overall income of millions of poor Americans. Third, the administration went beyond the tax code to increase anti-poverty spending, like food stamps and long-term unemployment benefits, and to support the national movement for a higher minimum wage. Together, these measures helped to reduce after-tax inequality more than any administration on record, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
[And he did this while reducing the deficit.]


But even if the U.S. gets a more moderate version of Trump that dovetails with the wishes of his Republican Congress, there is another clear conclusion to draw. Quite simply, his administration would make it much harder to be poor in America.

First, Obamacare may be toast. By rolling back the Medicaid expansion and ending private subsidies, Republicans would almost certainly send the uninsured rate back up to Bush-era levels. In the last six years, the number of uninsured families living around the poverty line fell by almost 50 percent. Those gains would be reversed, and more than 20 million people, many of them just above the poverty line, could suddenly lose access to health care.

Second, Trump’s proposed tax cut will be one of the largest ever, possibly reducing federal revenues by more than $6 trillion in the next decade. His plan is in line with tax cuts envisioned by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Although taxes would be cut at every level, “the highest-income taxpayers would receive the biggest cuts, both in dollar terms and as a percentage of income,” according to the Tax Policy Center. The richest 0.1 percent of the country would save, on average, more than $1 million.

What does that have to do with the poor? Well, the massive size of the proposed Trump tax is significant, because House Republicans are also calling for a balanced budget. Mathematically that means that the GOP will be on the lookout for $6 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. And Trump has essentially declared more than half the budget off-limits for cuts, since he wants to grow the military and preserve Social Security and Medicare.

With protective collars around defense and spending on the elderly, the rest of government spending would have to be bulldozed. This remainder is dominated by assistance for the young and poor. Medicaid would shrink, as might the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Food stamps would be cut. Federal unemployment insurance spending would fall, as would housing and energy assistance for the poor. The Department of Education would have to be gutted, taking federal student loans with it.


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