In an odd turn from last year's breathless efforts to save grandma from death panels, Republicans in the Congress nudge her ever closer to the poorhouse by insisting on an end to her Medicare benefits.
Such hypocrisy aside, it is important to ask whether hidden in the rafters there are ways to attack the budget deficit and the accumulated national debt without cutting the Big Three of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Indeed, such remedies exist, if only we chloroform the notion, one that seems super-glued to conservatives, that we help the middle class by giving more money to the rich.
Like virtually all her GOP colleagues, Rep. Capito (R-W.Va.) continues to purvey trickle-down foolishness, evidently preferring an airy theory that renders her cozy to the wealthy to the evidence before her own eyes. Did the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts create jobs? Yes, they did, Rep. Capito, but the ones in India don't count.
According to firebrand U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is neither Democrat nor Republican but rather is an Independent from Vermont, without threatening Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, we could cut the national debt by more than a third in the next ten years by over $5 trillion. That is more than any recent proposal to emerge from the U.S. Capitol's marble maze of machinations by Dems or Republicans.
But Sanders' proposal assumes that we eliminate numerous tax gifts to the wealthy. Sanders' plan preserves Medicare. No Paul Ryan vouchers. No requirement that grandma shop private companies for insurance. No additional $6,000 per year cost to granny either, as the Ryan plan would have required.
Sanders' plan would lop $1 trillion from the $14.5 trillion national debt by eliminating offshore tax shelters. Farewell Cayman Island PO box. Another $1.1 trillion would be cut from our debt with a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires and billionaires, coupled with an end to the Bush-era tax breaks to the top 2 percent of Americans.
Closure of tax code loopholes that reward companies that move manufacturing jobs overseas, and a currency manipulation fee on China and other low wage countries would chop another $1.1 trillion from our debt.
Next, instead of the present 15 percent tax paid by those who don't work for the cash but who make fortunes from capital gains and dividends on investments, we would tax such income at the same rate as we tax the pay of people who make their money by working for it. That, plus an end to the tax breaks and subsidies to big oil and gas companies, and a progressive tax on inherited wealth of the multi-million variety, would save almost $1 trillion more.
Extension of Medicare to all Americans would actually save money. That, plus a repeal of the Bush-engineered law that makes it illegal for the Medicare agency to dicker lower drug prices for seniors, would save another quarter trillion. Finally, reigning in our escalating military budget, which has almost tripled since 1997, could save close to a trillion. An end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would comprise a large part of those savings.
That's it. More than $5 trillion lopped off our $14.5 national debt in ten years. More savings than any plan lately put forth by either party.
Wyatt, a professor at Marshall University, is a Gazette contributing columnist.