G.O.P. opposition to programs helping the less fortunate, from food stamps to Medicaid, is usually framed in monetary terms. For example, Senator Orrin Hatch, challenged about Congress’s failure to take action on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a part of Medicaid that covers nearly nine million children — and whose federal funding expired back in September — declared that “the reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.”
.. the suffering imposed by Republican opposition to safety-net programs isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Inflicting pain is the point.
.. The federal government would initially pay the full cost, and even in the long run it would pay 90 percent, meanwhile bringing money and jobs into state economies.
Yet 18 states — all of them with Republican-controlled legislatures, governors or both — still haven’t expanded Medicaid. Why?
.. G.O.P. politicians simply don’t want lower-income families to have access to health care and are actually willing to hurt their own states’ economies to deny them that access.
.. the Trump administration declared that it would allow them to do so. But what was driving this demand?
.. The reality is that a vast majority of adult Medicaid recipients are in families where at least one adult is working. And a vast majority of those who aren’t working have very good reasons for not being in the labor force: They’re disabled, they’re caregivers to other family members or they’re students. The population of Medicaid recipients who “ought” to be working but aren’t is very small, and the money that states could save by denying them coverage is trivial.
.. most of the money they could save by kicking people off would be federal, not state, dollars. So what’s this about?
.. The answer, surely, is that it isn’t about saving money, it’s about stigmatizing those who receive government aid, forcing them to jump through hoops to prove their neediness. Again, the pain is the point.
.. In fact, a 10-year extension of CHIP funding would save the government $6 billion.
.. Making lower-income Americans worse off has become a goal in itself for the modern G.O.P., a goal the party is actually willing to spend money and increase deficits to achieve.
Progress in many areas where the parties could work together is being blocked because of the need for Trump and the Republican Party to kowtow to conservative ultras.
.. It was ironic that hours after Trump’s triple axel on the question, Judge William Alsup halted the president’s original effort to end DACA by citing Trump’s own words to make the case against him.
“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” Trump had said in September. Well, the other Trump seemed to want to do just that.
.. Trump is also stuck with his promise to build the border wall despite the fact that a USA Today survey of Congress last fallfound that fewer than 25 percent of Republicans were willing to endorse the plan. But the wall is all about his brand.
.. The cost of extremism is obvious on other matters as well. The Children’s Health Insurance Program is a genuinely bipartisan achievement that, at low cost, gets health care to 9 million young Americans. But the renewal is hung up because House Republicans are demanding that it be paid for by cutting Obamacare spending on various preventive-care measures. Really? Since when is prevention a partisan issue?
Would you be willing to take health care away from a thousand children with the bad luck to have been born into low-income families so that you could give millions of extra dollars to just one wealthy heir?
.. The other day Senator Orrin Hatch, asked about the program (which he helped create), once again insisted that it will be funded — but without saying when or how (and there don’t seem to be any signs of movement on the issue). And he further declared, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.” Then he voted for an immense tax cut.
.. The number of taxable estates is also, by the way, well under one one-thousandth of the number of children covered by CHIP.
.. but children’s health care is relatively cheap compared with care for older Americans. In fiscal 2016 the program cost only $15 billion, a tiny share of the federal budget.
As you see, then, my question wasn’t at all hypothetical. By their actions, Republicans are showing that they consider it more important to give extra millions to one already wealthy heir than to provide health care to a thousand children.
.. And when you hear about family farms broken up to pay estate tax, remember: Nobody has ever come up with a modern example.
.. Then there’s the argument of Senator Chuck Grassley that we need to eliminate estate taxes to reward those who don’t spend their money on “booze or women or movies.” Yes, indeed, letting the likes of Donald Trump Jr. inherit wealth tax-free is a reward for their fathers’ austere lifestyles.
.. there’s considerable evidence that aiding lower-income children actually saves money in the long run... Children who get adequate care are more likely to be healthier and more productive when they become adults, which means that they’ll earn more and pay more in taxes. They’re also less likely to become disabled and need government support. One recent study estimated that the government in fact earns a return of between 2 and 7 percent on the money it spends insuring children... broadly similar results have been found for the food stamp program: Ensuring adequate nutrition for the young means healthier, more productive adults, so that in the long run this aid costs taxpayers little or nothing... That is, however, exactly what’s happening. And it’s as bad, in its own way, as that same party’s embrace of a child molester because they expect him to vote for tax cuts.
Republicans don’t care about budget deficits, and never did. They only pretend to care about deficits when one of two things is true: a Democrat is in the White House, and deficit rhetoric can be used to block his agenda, or they see an opportunity to slash social programs that help needy Americans, and can invoke deficits as an excuse. All of this has been obvious for years to anyone paying attention.
.. And it was also predictable that they would return to deficit posturing as soon as the deed was done, citing the red ink they themselves produced as a reason to cut social spending.
.. Hatch declared his support for the program, but insisted that “the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore” — just before voting for a trillion-and-a-half-dollar tax cut that will deliver the bulk of its benefits to the richest few percent of the population.
He then went on to say, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.”
.. The House version of the big tax cut would eliminate the estate tax entirely; the Senate version would double the level of wealth exempted from the tax, to $22.4 million for a couple. How can this be justified if it’s supposedly hard to find money for children’s health care?
.. The important thing to realize, however, is that the hypocrisy and contempt for the public we’ve seen in the past few days is just the beginning.
.. offsetting those deficits will require going after the true big-ticket programs, namely Medicare and Social Security.
.. Republicans have given their donors what they wanted — and now they’re coming for your benefits.