The problem with lawmakers passing wildly unpopular bills in the name of appeasing their donors is that they then have to face their constituents. Protesters have flocked to the offices of GOP congressmen like Rep. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) since Trump’s election for their work to undo healthcare and pass a disastrous tax reform bill.
Despite polls that show that more than half of Americans disapprove of the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act promoted by President Trump and supported by a Republican-majority Congress, with 40 percent saying they “strongly disapprove,” the momentum behind getting the bill passed does not seem to be slowing down.
How a majority of American voters can disapprove of a bill and still see it passed but continue to believe that they are governed democratically is impossible to reconcile.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) found out just what voting for such an unpopular bill leads to when he was confronted on an airplane by a man diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) disease concerned about cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that are attached to the new tax reform bill. While the GOP touts the bill as an economic boon to the middle class, the massive cuts to programs and services that so many rely on negates any real tax savings the average American would see under Trump’s plan.
— Liz – We're doing it (@lizjaff) December 8, 2017
Ady Barkan, an activist with the Center for Popular Democracy, confronted Flake after running into the senator on a flight. Barkan
‘This tax bill is probably going to force $400 billion in automatic Pay-go cuts. So what should I tell my son, or what should you tell my son?’
The senator insisted that, while he had his concerns about the bill, that he continued to trust House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan that they would not hurt constituents like Barkan.
‘Both…have already issued statements saying that they are not going to implement Pay-go, or that they’re going to waive Pay-go.’
Pay-go, or pay-as-you-go, is defined by the Tax Policy Center as “a budget rule requiring that (using current law as the baseline) tax cuts as well as increases in entitlement and other mandatory spending must be covered by tax increases or cuts in mandatory spending.” While the deficit has triggered pay-go several times, it has never been implemented, but many groups advocating for the elderly and/or disabled fear that this bill will be a first.
Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, wrote in a letter to Congress:
‘Like the House tax bill, many taxpayers age 65+ get some tax relief under the SFC bill. But others end up paying higher income taxes than they pay today and the number doing so rises sharply over time. That impact is in addition to the potential negative effects of cuts to programs like Medicare that would result from the tax bill—effects that the analysis does not cover.
‘Overall, 20 percent of taxpayers 65+, totaling 6.3 million taxpayers, would either see no change or experience a tax increase in 2019 under the SFC tax bill. Among them, 1.2 million would get a tax hike and 5.1 million would see no change. About 29 percent of taxpayers 65+ with income below $65,150 (the income limit that captures 60 percent of all taxpayers), would see no tax change or a tax hike.’
It is long past time that elected officials in Washington, D.C. began listening to the voters and considering their needs before their donors. Ady Barkan took a brave step in making one listen to him.
I enjoyed the conversation, Ady. We won’t always agree, by I admire your courage and knowledgeable advocacy. https://t.co/rtaKegXvCU
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 8, 2017
Senator, thank you for listening to my story, engaging my arguments, and offering kind words. Your words have been potent all year. But now baby Carl and I need you to back them up with your votes. This is your moment. Be America's hero. https://t.co/dlGmoE4dsM
— Ady Barkan?? (@AdyBarkan) December 8, 2017
Featured image screengrab via video