World Economy

US Tax Bill Could Fuel Push for Medicare

US Tax Bill Could Fuel Push for MedicareUS Tax Bill Could Fuel Push for Medicare

The tax bill that Republicans are muscling through Congress could result in cuts to entitlement spending if it significantly increases the national debt, budget experts say.

Republicans say tax-cut package will lead to economic growth and greater tax revenues, but there are doubts even within their party about whether that growth will come to pass, Yahoo reported.

The Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official budget scorekeeper, estimated the bill would cost $1 trillion over a decade even with economic growth taken into account. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) opposed the bill for that reason.

As the population ages and health care costs continue to rise, the fiscal demands on entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is projected to grow. The projected increase in the debt from the tax package could make the situation worse, budget experts say.

“In the past when members of congress have been concerned about the debt, they’ve turned to these programs, so it’s not a stretch to see that they turn there in the foreseeable future,” said Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“If we are talking about the kinds of deficits” that are projected from the tax bill, “entitlement cuts are definitely on the table,” said William Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Democrats and activist groups are seizing on the potential threat to entitlement programs to try and stop the bill and rally their base for the 2018 elections.

They have run television ads warning the bill would result in a $25 billion cut to Medicare, and senate minority leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has repeatedly said the bill will “gut” the program.

During an exchange on the senate floor Thursday evening, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asked Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to promise that Republicans wouldn’t cut Medicare and Social Security after passing the tax bill.

 “Will you guarantee the American people there will be zero cuts to benefits in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?” Sanders said. Toomey said there were no plans to cut the programs, but activists are skeptical.

“This is a tax bill that’s coming after Medicare and Medicaid cuts,” said Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy at Families USA. “It’s fundamentally step one of a two-step process. Nobody should be under any illusions otherwise.”

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