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Politics

Apparently Republicans want to kick the middle class in the face

Catherine Rampell on

Despite all those fanciful promises about how tax cuts will pay for themselves, Republican politicians know their legislation will blow a major hole in the deficit. According to lawmakers' own official scorekeepers, the Senate bill would cost $1 trillion over the coming decade, even after accounting for additional economic growth.

And in recent days and weeks, prominent Republicans have pledged to patch over this budget hole by cutting programs that millions of Americans need to get by.

At an event on Wednesday, for example, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., linked tax cuts to coming entitlement cuts.

"Many argue that you can't cut taxes because it will drive up the deficit," he said. "But we have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future."

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., of course has been trying to block-grant Medicaid and other safety-net programs for years. At a recent town hall, when asked why the tax bill wasn't paid for through spending cuts, he assured the audience that spending cuts would be coming quite soon.

Even President Trump, supposed defender of the downtrodden, remarked at a recent Cabinet meeting: "We're looking very strongly at welfare reform, and that will all take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes." He added that such a policy was "desperately needed in our country."

You might question these pledges because cutting entitlements and other safety-net programs is easier said than done. Republicans learned this when they tried and failed to roll back Medicaid earlier this year.

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But it's worth noting that if Trump signs tax cuts into law in December, some spending cuts would be triggered automatically in January -- without lawmakers having to lift a single finger or herd a single cat. Medicare alone would be slashed by $25 billion between January and September.

Such cuts would be triggered by a law known as statutory PAYGO, which was designed to promote fiscal responsibility. Overriding the law requires 60 Senate votes. Even if Democrats get on board with cleaning up the GOP's budget mess, recent comments suggest not all Senate or House Republicans may choose to join them.

Income inequality is near record highs, and yet Republicans' regressive tax and spending plans forge forward. It's time for voters to ask their elected officials: How much upward distribution of wealth will ever be enough?

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Catherine Rampell's email address is crampell@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

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