Farewell to Cassidy-Graham

Farewell to Cassidy-Graham

After a month of misleading claims, fierce opposition from medical organizations and patient advocates, and flip-flops from previously held positions, Sen. Bill Cassidy is putting his health care repeal crusade on hold rather than have the bill voted down on the Senate floor.

Number of the Day

30.3 - Percent of Louisianans that live in distressed communities. (Source: Economic Innovation Group)

After a month of misleading claims, fierce opposition from medical organizations and patient advocates, and flip-flops from previously held positions, Sen. Bill Cassidy is putting his health care repeal crusade on hold rather than have the bill voted down on the Senate floor. LBP’s statement:

This is excellent news for the nearly two million Louisianans who rely on Medicaid or the individual marketplace to purchase their insurance. The Senate’s effort to end the Medicaid expansion, gut traditional Medicaid and make consumer protections optional under the guise of ‘state flexibility’ was both disingenuous and cruel. It violated Sen. Cassidy’s earlier promise that no one would lose coverage and that people with pre-existing conditions would be protected. Instead, the Cassidy-Graham plan would have eliminated coverage for millions of Americans and brought us back to a time when insurance companies could discriminate against the old and the sick. The Senate now should focus on two critically important matters: renewing the Children’s Health Insurance Program and developing a bipartisan solution to strengthen the individual marketplaces.

 

Next up for Congress: tax cuts

With health care repeal off the table, President Donald Trump and congressional leaders are shifting their focus to a $1.5 trillion package of tax cuts that would mainly benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Chye-Ching Huang and Joel Friedman break down the effort.  

If recent tax proposals from President Trump and Republican congressional leaders are any guide, the tax cut that Congress will draft is likely to be heavily skewed toward high-income households, the group that has reaped most of the income gains of recent decades. And rather than requiring the $1.5 trillion cost to be offset through revenue-raising measures such as closing unproductive, inefficient, or low-priority tax breaks, the budget resolution would allow the tax cut’s cost to add to future deficits, thereby exacerbating the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona is making the same demands of his party leaders on taxes as he did on health care: any legislation must be bipartisan and follow regular order. Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur has the story:

“We need to do it in a bipartisan fashion,” McCain said Tuesday of planned tax legislation, arguing that the major congressional reforms that have stood the test of time since the 20th century have included buy-in from both parties. … McCain’s tax demands cut against GOP leaders’ plans to use the same fast-track procedure on taxes as they tried to use on health care. That procedure requires 50 Senate votes and allows for bypassing a potential Democratic filibuster.

Louisiana’s junior senator did not share Sen. McCain’s outlook:

“Senator McCain has his reasons for saying that. He’s entitled to them. All I can tell you is that this economy is not going to get better until we do tax reform,” Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana said in an interview. Asked what would happen if Congress fails on taxes like they did on health care, Kennedy responded: “I may go home and put a bag over my head. And hide my head in a bag.”

One of the architects of the Reagan-era tax cuts, Bruce Bartlett, writes in USA Today that the theory behind the GOP’s tax-cut obsession is a lie.

Tax cuts and tax rate reductions will not pay for themselves; they never have. Republicans don’t even believe they will, they are just excuses to slash spending for the poor when revenues collapse and deficits rise. There is no evidence that tax reform raises growth, although it may improve fairness and tax administration. And the Republican idea that tax increases always crash the economy is belied by the experiences after Bill Clinton raised taxes in 1993 and Barack Obama did the same in 2013. The economy grew nicely and the stock market boomed in both cases.

 

Bipartisan call for Puerto Rico support

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico – home to 3.4 million American citizens –  was devastated by Hurricane Maria. More than 1 million people are without power and could be for up to six months. Vox’s Brian Resnick and Eliza Barclay give a thorough account of the biggest issues the island faces::

Exact figures on the extent of the damage and the costs of repairs on the island are not yet known. This is partly due to the fact that communications on the island are strained. But it’s also because many roads are damaged and it’s hard to get around. AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk consultancy, estimates the storm caused $40 billion to $85 billion in insurance claims throughout the Caribbean, with 85 percent of those losses in Puerto Rico. Photos show whole communities with roofs torn off, second floors of houses ripped apart, water flooding the streets, and people resorting to waiting in long lines for clean water and fuel. In reports, the word “apocalyptic” is used often.

Republicans and Democrats are beginning to compare the situation in Puerto Rico to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, calling upon the federal government to bolster its outreach and financial support. McClatchy Washington Bureau’s William Douglas and Alex Daugherty with the story:

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters that money from a $15 billion aid bill that Congress passed to help victims of Harvey and Irma can be used for Puerto Rico recovery efforts. “And I also want the people of Puerto Rico to know that they’re going to get the kind of support and the aid that Texas and Florida have…enjoyed,” he said. Ryan echoed a vow made Monday by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, on help for the U.S. territories.

 

Distressed communities and the safety net

Resource-constrained communities are becoming more isolated, as economic prosperity becomes  concentrated in thriving geographic areas. The struggling communities left behind face problems with unemployment and higher than average health needs. The Economic Innovation Group created a metric – the Distressed Communities Index – to track these areas. Axios’ Kim Hart has more:

Fewer new companies are forming than ever before, which disproportionately hurts distressed communities. The new businesses that do get started are often located in thriving communities where educated workers are. So talented people are forced to leave places with little economic opportunity — even if they have personal and family reasons to stay — to move to those where there is opportunity.

The Brookings Institution’s Elizabeth Kneebone and Scott W. Allard explain that a robust federal safety net is needed to address the opioid crisis that plagues these distressed areas.

Given the limited availability of services and the crisis of addiction, we should expect the federal government—particularly a White House that campaigned on solving the problem and a Republican Party that represents many of the hardest-hit areas—to seek additional funds and ways to boost capacity. Instead, the current budget and health care proposals do just the opposite. Proposed cuts to Medicaid would undermine a key source of funding for addiction services and interventions, particularly for lower-income households. Broader reductions in funding for social service and safety net programs also would reduce the resources available for treatment and prevention programs. Neither state and local governments nor charitable philanthropies have the funds to fill in these proposed federal cuts.

 

Number of the Day

30.3 – Percent of Louisianans that live in distressed communities. (Source: Economic Innovation Group)