Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

'Disability insurance payments are in effect being held hostage for so-called conservative “reforms” that would make it harder for some people on disability to receive benefits and possibly cut benefits for future Social Security retirees.' (Image: CNN)

On Day 1, House GOP Rigs The Rules For The Rich, Against The Disabled

The House of Representatives wasted no time Tuesday in setting up schemes that are designed to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.

House Republicans approved on late Tuesday a resolution of operating rules that include several pretty outrageous provisions, such as an authorization to keep beating the dead horse of Benghazi, the effort to smear the Obama administration’s response to the 2012 Libya Embassy attack. But one of the most outrageous will allow Republicans to get away with claiming that tax cuts on the wealthy in effect defy gravity by increasing revenues and lowering deficits, thus making them easier to slip through Congress.

At the same time, a sentence in the rules resolution puts in jeopardy Social Security disability benefits for millions of people by deliberately making it harder for the government to cover their cost.

This from the Republican Party that just a couple of days ago Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said wanted to present itself as less “scary.” If you’re a corporation or a billionaire, you have nothing to fear. But if you happen to be too disabled to work, be afraid, be very afraid.

To smooth its tax-cutting, government-gutting agenda, the House has mandated that its budget and tax referees, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, use something called “dynamic scoring” to measure the impact of tax cuts on the budget.

What Republicans want to do is to corrupt what has been for the most part nonideological budget analysis – sometimes the CBO and JCT come to conclusions that progressive lawmakers like, sometimes they don’t – with the presumption that tax cuts lead to economic growth, especially if those tax cuts are at the top end.

Congressional conservatives don’t want the public to hear that tax cuts reduce government revenue (and thus increase deficits) and don’t inexorably translate to economic growth that is broadly shared. Through the magic of “dynamic scoring” – what George H. W. Bush in a moment of clarity called “voodoo economics” – cutting taxes increases economic activity and thus even more government revenue.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has a thorough explanation of what’s wrong with dynamic scoring. The bottom line is it allows Republicans to present speculation, or even outright fiction, as budgetary fact, so that it can justify tax giveaways that otherwise would not pass muster.

Imagine on a national scale the disaster that is currently unfolding in Kansas, where archconservative Gov. Sam Brownback muscled through a series of top-end tax cuts that have backfired and are now leading to deep budget deficits. Brownback explicitly said that these tax cuts would pay for themselves. What we’re seeing in Kansas is the latest example of the failure of the conservative tax dogma that gave us the “Laffer Curve” of the 1970s, the trickle-down economics of the 1980s and the deficit-raising Bush tax cuts of the 2000s. And now House Republicans have empowered themselves to further impose the fiction on tax policy. It means we’ll have to push harder to make sure that the truth about Republican tax policy gets heard as conservatives and the media pass on the newly tainted assessments of the CBO and JCT as authoritative and factual.

Meanwhile, we highlighted last month the opportunity for Congress to make a modest temporary fix to ensure that the Social Security disability trust fund can pay full benefits to its recipients through 2016 and beyond. It would involve Congress allowing funds to move between the Social Security old-age retirement fund and the disability fund, which Congress has allowed 11 times since the late 1960s.

Without such a transfer, people on disability insurance would start seeing sharp cuts in their benefit checks starting sometime next year. Nonetheless, in an apparent response to opposition of groups such as the Heritage Foundation, House Republicans added a sentence to their operating rules that would make it harder for them to authorize such a transfer between the funds.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in a statement put his finger directly on what’s behind this move: “Republicans want to set the stage to cut benefits for seniors and disabled Americans.”

Disability insurance payments are in effect being held hostage for so-called conservative “reforms” that would make it harder for some people on disability to receive benefits and possibly cut benefits for future Social Security retirees.

With this as their opening gambit, it’s clear that conservatives in Congress have no intention of easing their assault on the pillars of economic security for working people – and their efforts to secure even more for the top 1 percent.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Isaiah J. Poole

Isaiah J. Poole

Isaiah J. Poole is the editorial director of The Next System Project, a project of the Democracy Collaborative.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Buddhist Monk and Peace Activist Thích Nhất Hạnh Dead at 95

"He inspired so many good people to dedicate themselves to working for a more just and compassionate world."

Jessica Corbett ·

Draft Order Shows Trump Considered Using Military to Seize Voting Machines

"This was part of the records that Trump was fighting to keep from the January 6th committee," one government watchdog noted.

Brett Wilkins ·

Groups Warn US Lawmakers Against Fueling 'New Cold War' With China

A policy of hostility toward Beijing, says a global justice advocate, has "become a convenient excuse for pushing a corporate, militarist agenda."

Jessica Corbett ·

Democracy 'On the Line' Says Bowman After Protest Arrest

"I will not stand by and I will not stay quiet while the fate of our democracy continues to hang loosely by a thread that the Senate is hellbent on tearing apart."

Julia Conley ·

To 'Hold Her Accountable for What She Did,' Primary Sinema Project Gets Into Gear

"Kyrsten Sinema is unfit to be a United States senator," the project asserts. "Just like the filibuster itself, we need to get rid of her if we want to save our democracy before it's too late."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo