Democrats Take Aim at Republicans on Entitlement Cuts

Democrats Take Aim at Republicans on Entitlement Cuts

© Aaron Bernstein / Reuters

Democrats have a new sledgehammer of a study they can use in trying to link Republican tax cuts and proposed cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other social welfare programs.

A report released last week by Democratic lawmakers on the congressional Joint Economic Committee shows that the tax cuts for the top 1 percent under Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush match, nearly dollar for dollar, proposed GOP spending cuts to safety net programs.

“New analysis shows that the Bush and Trump tax cuts are projected to run up a $2 trillion bill in tax giveaways for the wealthiest by 2025,” the report says, “even as the Republican budget aims to slash the same amount from Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).” 

Where the numbers come from: The report is based on calculations made in July by the non-artisan, liberal-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The ITEP analysis of federal tax cuts from 2001 to 2018 found that they had reduced revenues by trillions of dollars, with a big chunk of the benefits flowing to the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers. “By the end of 2025, the tally of tax cuts will grow to $10.6 trillion,” the ITEP report says. “Nearly $2 trillion of this amount will have gone to the richest 1 percent.”

The $2 trillion in benefit cuts refers to a budget proposal approved by the GOP-controlled House Budget Committee in June.

The political play: The report is part of the Democratic effort to link Republican tax cuts, which have not been particularly popular with American voters, with benefits cuts cited in various GOP budget proposals. The $2 trillion figure creates an easy symmetry that Democrats can run with in messaging ahead of the midterms as they focus on the idea that Republicans plan to cut Medicare and other public benefit programs after the election in order to pay for the tax cuts they pushed through late last year. “No one has done this math before, totaling up the net cost of 20 years of tax cuts for the top 1% -- and it just happens to equal, exactly, the proposed cuts to New Deal and Great Society safety net programs,” NBC News’ Przybyla tweeted.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-TN) opened the door to that line of attack in comments last week, in which he said that entitlements, not tax cuts, are the “real drivers of the debt,” and that “changes” to the programs will have to occur at some point in the future, under the cover of some sort of bipartisan deal.  

NBC’s Przybyla reported Tuesday that a Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA Action, will spend $2 million on new television ads focused on McConnell’s comments. "The Republicans just admitted it," the ad reportedly says. "They’re going to make you pay for their massive tax giveaway to big corporations and the wealthy. AFTER the election."