President Donald Trump last month opeened the possibility of cutting Medicare and other entitlement programs, which would break a promise he made during the 2016 campaign. All indications are that the administration wants to justify such cuts as necessary to offset a federal budget deficit that is nearing the $1 trillion mark, its highest level in almost a decade.
That deficit, according to nonpartisan government experts, is largely the result of the massive tax cut, primarily benefiting the rich, that Trump and Republicans rammed through in 2017. You remember, the one that was supposed to "pay for itself" in historic economic growth rates that never materialized.
A big question facing voters in November, then, is whether they're OK with a president and party that passed a fiscally irresponsible tax cut, then suggested paying for it by cutting benefits to regular Americans.
The tax cut never made economic sense to start with. Notwithstanding Republican mythology that says the tax cuts gave us the current strong economy, virtually all formal and informal indicators — employment, the stock market, gross national product — show it to be a steady continuation of the economic upswing that began in President Barack Obama's first term. Both standard economics and common sense say cutting taxes is a tool to be used during economic slumps, not in the kind of strong and growing economy that Trump and his party inherited in 2017.
But the tax cuts were never about standard economics or common sense. They were about stubborn GOP orthodoxy in place since the 1980s that blindly insists tax cuts are always good — the deeper, the better. The fact that these cuts were top-loaded, with most of the benefits going to corporations and wealthy individuals, was classic supply-side economics, which Republicans continue to preach even though it's been debunked repeatedly since the Reagan era.
Experts warned from the start that the windfall bestowed upon corporations would go to investors rather than sustained wage hikes, and they were right. They also warned that the cuts wouldn't spur enough new economic activity in an already-robust economy to offset the revenue losses. They were right about that, too.
Finally, critics predicted that Trump and his party would suggest getting out of the fiscal hole they dug for themselves by slashing federal programs that elderly and low-income Americans depend upon. And like clockwork, here they come.
After decades of hawking what President George H.W. Bush once called, accurately, "voodoo economics," a little thing like being proven wrong is unlikely to prompt a GOP course change. Only voter backlash in November might do that. And it would have the added benefit of protecting Medicare recipients from having to foot the bill that Trump and his party are clearly planning to send them.
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