Friday, November 17, 2017

Man in the Wilderness: Congressman Walter Jones, the Only House Republican in Deep-Red State to Vote Against House Tax Plan

Rep. Walter Jones, lonely voice of reason and decency
Walter Jones must feel like a man in the wilderness. Jones, a North Carolina Republican in the House of Representatives, has a storied history of speaking his mind, regardless of the consequences. But this week, he really went out on a limb. Jones is the only member of his party from a deep-red state to vote against the current House version of the $1.5 trillion tax bill.
It was a brave move. But also a smart one. Why? Because this tax bill will hurt so many of his constituents. When all is said and done, if this absurd tax bill, or its equally preposterous counterpart bill in the Senate, reaches President Trump's desk, many of Jones' supporters will take a major hit. And probably so will you.
Jones, who's been in Congress since 1994, is someone I have long admired. A moderate, he is a truly decent and independent man. You want examples? For more than a decade, he has been quietly writing personal letters of respect and condolence to the families of thousands of men and women who have lost their lives fighting in the nation's post-9/11 wars. He says he does it because he deeply regrets voting in 2002 to authorize the U.S. to invade Iraq.
As I reported in the International Business Times a few years ago, Jones was one of the few voices in Congress who relentlessly demanded that the government release the redacted pages of the Joint Intelligence Committee 9/11 Inquiry report regarding the Saudi Arabian government's alleged involvement in the terrorist attack.
And once again Jones has been a singular voice with this tax "cut," which he voted against in large part because it eliminates the tax deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses, which, seemingly unbeknownst to his GOP colleagues, is a very scary proposition for millions of suffering Americans. "There are a lot of seniors in my district, and this is life and death for them," Jones said this week.
Middle Class Hit Hard
So, there you go. A rare moment of clarity and decency among House Republicans these days. The so-called tax "cuts" in both the House and the Senate are the biggest scams for wealthy Americans and multi-national corporations Congress has ever attempted to pull on this country. They will greatly harm the economy, and millions of Americans.
The House bill would raise taxes on millions of middle-class families, punish the elderly, eliminate jobs, increase health insurance premiums, encourage American companies to take their jobs to other countries, which of course President Trump has done his entire career, and explode the debt.
In the House bill, people making less than $30,000 a year would actually pay $4 billion more in taxes, while people who make over $200,000 would pay $90 billion less.
And as Jones noted, the bill would kill a deduction that allows millions of American families of disabled children and elderly people to write off large medical expenses. The deduction is currently allowed if medical expenses exceed 10 percent of a taxpayer's adjusted gross income. About 9 million taxpayers reportedly deducted about $87 billion in medical expenses for the 2015 tax year, according to the IRS.
Few Republicans have had the courage to speak out about this ridiculous idea to repeal the medical-expense tax break. Rep. Greg Walden, the Oregon Republican who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Chicago Tribune this week that some of his constituents who live in senior care facilities could in fact be harmed if the deduction is taken away.
But when asked what he plans to do about it, his answer was vague and bizarre. "I think it's one we have to continue to massage a bit," he said. "There's a lot of things out there and there's maybe going to be an opportunity to adjust some of them."
Cancer Patients Threatened
Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has warned that the House tax cut proposal, which passed narrowly on Thursday (13 Republicans opposed it), would cut $25 billion from Medicare spending next year. The reduction would come in the form of automatic sequester cuts designed to prevent the federal government from running out of money.
Oncologists nationwide are very concerned about this. The Republican's plan to slash Medicare would trigger sequester cuts that would drive more independent cancer clinics out of business and reduce cancer patient access to care.
“Policymakers in Washington should note that blunt budget-cutting gimmicks like the sequester cut backfire. They have terrible unintended consequences and do more harm than good for patients and taxpayers,” the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) said in a statement.
As OncLive reported today, the coalition of independent oncology practices stated that the most recent Medicare sequester cut, five years ago, resulted in the closure of nearly 100 oncology practices—many consisting of multiple clinic locations—and caused another 130 to merge with hospitals in order to survive.
Under the House bill, which was not supported by a single Democrat, corporations can benefit by taking their jobs out of the United States. Companies will have the option of paying the new 20 percent corporate rate the GOP is proposing, or move to a low-tax country and pay just 9 percent to that nation and nothing to the United States. Yes, nothing.
Senate Bill Might Be Even Worse
Not to be outdone, the Senate's version of this so-called tax cut, which will be voted on next week, may be even more harmful to working Americans. In this bill, taxpayers who make between $50,000 and $75,000 would pay $3.9 billion more in taxes per year after the individual cuts expire in 2026, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), while wealthy families who benefit more from the corporate tax cuts would continue to get a tax break after the individual cuts expire.
The JCT said the Senate bill will raise taxes on low-income Americans beginning in 2021, and that taxpayers earning less than $40,000 would see their tax bills go up in the second half of the next decade. The CBO also said that the Senate's tax plan could trigger huge cuts to Medicare and other programs in order to meet budget deficit rules.
The Senate bill will repeal the individual mandate in Obamacare, which will increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 13 million, according to the CBO, and raise insurance premiums by about 10 percent for millions of middle-class families and by over $1,000 per year for millions of seniors.
Senate Majority turtle Mitch McConnell admits he added the elimination of the individual mandate to the bill to help pay for permanent corporate tax rate cuts.
Both of these tax bills are frauds. Scams. But don't take my word for it. Read up on them. See for yourself. Walter Jones did. And he should win some sort of medal for it.

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