The Republican bill to cut taxes on powerful corporations and wealthy households will add at least $1 trillion to the federal debt – probably more – over the next decade. In response, House Speaker Paul Ryan is turning his attention to the next phase of his plan: cutting federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition assistance that support low-income families and the middle class. The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel explains:
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday said House Republicans will aim to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs next year as a way to trim the federal deficit. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an interview on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show.
Meanwhile, a letter writer to The Advocate laments the votes in favor of the bill by Louisiana Senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy and the threats to health care services that will follow.
So if, in the coming years, you see your Social Security checks or those of people you love shrinking, remember: Cassidy and Kennedy thought rich people should have that money instead. If you find that Medicare covers fewer of the procedures that your doctor recommends, or that your doctor is reluctant to accept Medicare patients because reimbursement rates have declined, remember: Cassidy and Kennedy thought rich people should have that money instead.
A fix for corporations, but not children?
In their haste to vote on their tax plan, Senate Republicans set the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) at 20 percent, the same as the rate for the standard corporate income tax, triggering concern that the tax breaks worked into the bill would be useless to many corporations. The AMT “mistake” will likely be changed in House-Senate conference negotiations, giving hundreds of billions of dollars more in tax cuts to corporations. Jordan Weissman at Slate writes:
The problem involves the corporate alternative minimum tax, which the GOP initially planned to repeal, but tossed back into their stew at the last second in order to raise some desperately needed revenue. The AMT is basically a parallel tax code meant to prevent companies from zeroing out their IRS bills. It doesn’t allow businesses to take as many tax breaks but, in theory, is also supposed to have a lower rate. Except not under the Senate bill.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether a proposal by Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee to modestly boost the Child Tax Credit for families struggling the most will be included in the final bill. Chuck Marr of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains that while the Rubio-Lee provision can’t fix the massive upward transfer of wealth, it would be a small step in the right direction. He urges Congress to include it in the final bill.
Even under the Rubio-Lee proposal, low-income working families would see far smaller CTC increases than families at higher income levels. But unlike the current bill, the Rubio-Lee proposal offers many of these 26 million children a more meaningful increase in their CTC. Starting with their first dollar of earnings, parents would qualify for a CTC of 15.3 cents per dollar of earnings — enough to offset the payroll taxes that workers face on their wages (including both the employee and employer shares).
The Medicaid program is under budget
Louisiana is on track to spend $650 million less on Medicaid services than originally forecast, state health authorities told the AP’s Melinda Deslatte. While most of the savings will be federal funding that gets sent back to Washington, some will be state general funds that can be repurposed for other critical state needs. The health agency’s chief of staff, Andrew Tuozzolo, credits Medicaid expansion for driving down health care costs by connecting patients to preventive and primary care services.
The federal government is paying most of the Medicaid expansion cost. Louisiana is paying a share that eventually increases to 10 percent. Lawmakers also passed items to help cover the state’s costs, including a tax hike charged on health maintenance organizations. Louisiana also is saving millions by tapping into enhanced federal financing for coverage it already provided to the poor and uninsured that is now available because of Medicaid expansion.
Gender wage gap at the flagship?
Women faculty members at LSU often make far less money for doing the same job as men, according to new research for the university’s Council on Gender Equity. In some cases, men make $20,000 to $30,000 more than women within the same college with similar professional backgrounds. LSU spokesperson Ernie Ballard III contends differences in pay are due to discrepancies in education and experience upon hiring. However, the gap exists for new professors with similar backgrounds as well. Mark Ballard of The Advocate has the scoop:
Assistant professors typically are nearer the beginning of their careers, have similar credentials and are on a set time frame before going through the tenure process. They haven’t been there for years and years and are unlikely to have their pay impacted by length of service, she said. But for female assistant professors in the College of Business — Cheng’s salary was included in this calculation — the average pay is $11,519 less than men. At the College of Arts and Design, where 55 percent of the assistant professors are women, men make $5,357 more per year.
Number of the Day
$30 million – The state general fund savings if Medicaid spending continues to come in below earlier forecasts. (Source: Louisiana Department of Health via Nola.com/The Times-Picayune)