Welcome to “From the Center.” Please check out the “About” for more about this blog. Also please click on “Helpful Info” for information about how the federal government operates, including the budget process.
It will take me a few months to get this blog fully functional. But hopefully over time I can provide readers with the type of factual information on the events and issues that will help them be better informed.
Of course, comments are always welcome. So are suggestions for future posts. Or if you have a question about budgets, taxes, politicians or politics, please send me an email. I will give you a straight answer if I have one or can find one.
We are now in uncharted territory. For bloggers Donald Trump and the Republican controlled Congress will provide a target rich environment during 2017. It is hard to decide where to start blogging.
Will Trump keep his promises?
During the campaign Donald Trump promised voters everything imaginable. But one of his more surprising claims was that he would not touch Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid. Congressional Republicans must not have heard this one because since the election they have been salivating to do more than touch these programs; they want to radically overhaul them.
So will President Trump deliver on his promises? And if he doesn’t, which voters will be hurt the most?
Well, Brookings researchers Mark Muro and Sifan Liu have answered the question of who will get hurt by Trump’s broken promises. They analyzed statistics on the election results of 3,056 U.S. counties. These statistics show that Hillary Clinton won 472 counties and Donald Trump won 2,584. So, although Clinton won the popular vote by over 2.8 million votes, she won only 15.4 percent of the counties. Surprised? I was.
But here is where the Muro and Liu analysis really gets interesting. It showed that Clinton’s 472 counties generate 64 percent of the nation’s economic activity (Gross Domestic Product) compared to 36 percent in Trump dominated counties. To me these statistics mean that Trump’s claims to bring back manufacturing jobs garnered many supporters in the less affluent areas of the country. Typically these are areas that are more dependent on government programs and where better paying jobs are less plentiful.
Of course jobs are very important to all working Americans but I feel certain that if you asked middle and lower income folks which government programs are most important to them Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid would be high on the list. Obviously that’s why Trump promised not to touch those programs. But he must not have known what Republicans in Congress have been planning for several years.
Since Republicans took control of the U.S. House in 2011, then-Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his successor Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., have produced austerity budgets that would repeal Obamacare, drastically cut funding for Medicaid and transition Medicare to a voucher system that would essentially privatize health care for retirees who become eligible for Medicare in 10 years. That begs the questions: Will congressional Republicans produce a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal years 2018-2027 next April that mirrors their recent austerity budgets? And will Trump go along?
These past budgets were vague about changes Republicans would make to Social Security. But recently House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson, R-Texas, unveiled what some Republicans plan for this very popular social program. Johnson proposed a bill that he claims would solve the problem of future deficits in the Social Security trust fund and not raise taxes. His solution is to significantly reduce benefits for many lower income retirees and eventually cut taxes on benefits for higher income retirees.
An email I received from the Social Security Administration early in 2016 stated that around 30 percent of those on Social Security had to pay income taxes on their benefits. That means around 70 percent of recipients aren’t taxed on their benefits. Why? These folks have incomes below $32,000 if married and below $25,000 if single. Needless to say they are dependent on Social Security to live. So Johnson wants to cut benefits for many of these lower income retirees?
Of course Johnson’s bill may not be passed into law but I think it shows what some Republicans in Congress would like to do with Social Security. Do you suppose the folks who supported Trump will be concerned?
Well, at least three of Trump’s cabinet appointments should definitely concern many Trump supporters:
Rep. Price is now Trump’s choice for Health and Human Services Secretary. He is a former orthopedic surgeon who is known as a strong opponent of Obamacare. He also favors privatizing Medicare in 10 years, which would affect those who are currently under the age of 55. As chairman of the House Budget Committee Price produced a budget for FYs 2017-2026 that would cut federal health care spending by almost 45% compared to President Obama’s budget for those years. Most of those cuts would come from repealing Obamacare and cutting Medicaid funding.
Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, is Trump’s choice for Labor Secretary. He is known to oppose a significant increase in the minimum wage and favor replacing workers with automation. And Puzder will not likely be a friend of organized labor.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., Trump’s choice for Director of the Office of Management and Budget is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right, some say radical, Republicans that is now chaired by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. This group is all about making huge cuts in the federal budget, particularly in health care spending. An Obamacare replacement is not on their agenda.
Trump is required by law to submit a budget to Congress for FYs 2018-2027 during his first 100 days and Congress is supposed to pass a concurrent resolution on the budget for those fiscal years in April next year. Mulvaney will be in charge of producing Trump’s budget and will work with Congress to resolve budget issues and differences on federal spending. We will soon know if Trump intends to keep his promises.
Watch this space.
Here is hoping that you had a Merry Christmas and that the New Year will be good to you and yours.