State Sen. Jon Erpenbach
Op Ed

Medicare Threatened By Federal Tax Cuts

Massive deficit it causes could require huge cuts in Medicare.

By - Dec 7th, 2017 05:11 pm
Donald Trump. Photo from

Donald Trump. Photo from

For most of us, Washington DC and the politics of President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress seem a million miles away. But the reality is that our lives, and the lives of those we love, are impacted by the Federal government and decisions made in Washington DC every single day. Whether you drive to work on a road that gets Federal funds, receive or are building social security, qualify for Medicare, have a child in school, receive the child tax credit, eat food from a farm that is subsidized, take medication that is regulated; all of this and countless more daily operations of our lives are impacted by the decisions made in Washington DC.

The Federal tax bill, which will be reconciled soon between the Senate and the House, spends in deficit. That is an inarguable point because the bill enacts tax cuts that are not paid for. Because the bill has deficit spending, it is regulated by another Federal law that prohibits deficit spending. While tax breaks enacted for corporations and wealthy will remain in place, programs that benefit our elderly or low income individuals will be cut. It will be an automatic action unless Congress passes a bill to reverse their “Pay As You Go” 2010 law. The Medicare cuts, although immediate, are capped yearly but will still be felt deeply simply because of the number of people that qualify for this Federal health care program for the elderly. For other Federal programs the cuts will simply come without regard for need.

According to the Associated Press, “The program that would be most affected by the automatic cuts is Medicare, whose budget would be slashed by more than $25 billion a year. Other programs that would experience deep cuts include vocational training for individuals with disabilities, block grants for foster care and Meals on Wheels and federal funding for historically black colleges and universities.”

There are consequences for decisions made in Washington DC and sometimes they are not so obvious. If you are lucky enough to make an income three times the Wisconsin median income, the tax plan being decided in Washington DC will likely benefit you. But if you are like the rest of us who are the proven fuel in the US economy, those that spend all the income they receive on cost of living, it will be harder to find a benefit. If you are over 65, disabled, a foster child, a farmer, a construction worker, an addict in recovery, a Meals on Wheels recipient, or living on a fixed income, be ready for cuts to your income, health care and services; not only as the primary action of the tax plan but the mandatory secondary action of current Federal law.

Wisconsin will have lots of tough choices in the upcoming budgets because of less revenue from the Federal government and fewer block grants to support our state budget. I stand ready as a member of the Joint Committee on Finance to help navigate Federal cuts and to work to help make the best decisions we can for the people of the State of Wisconsin given this fiscal shortfall.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, is a member of the Wisconsin state Senate

Categories: Health, Politics

6 thoughts on “Op Ed: Medicare Threatened By Federal Tax Cuts”

  1. In a famous scene from the 2012 election, an old Republican woman in Florida said she wanted “the government to keep its Goddamn hands off my Medicare.” People said the woman was stupid because everyone knew Medicare was a government program. But she wasn’t. What she meant was that, in her zero-sum world, if others got Medicare or some benefit, she would be the loser. She wanted to make sure that “the others’ didn’t get anything.

    Republican voters have long held this zero-sum view, especially the belief that their hard-earned tax dollars were going to the undeserving, leeches and takers. This set of beliefs has been the fuel for Scott Walker’s entire career, along with those of many other Republicans. Without it, there is no chance that Donald Trump would be sitting in the White House. Scapegoats, hatred of taxes, and hatred of the government that was giving everything to those scapegoats.

    Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The federal government – Executive, Legislative, Judicial – is in the hands of reactionaries and tools of corporate interests and the wealthiest people. Contrary to their public positions, they know that this tax plan will produce huge deficits, intensify our greatest in the world inequality and lock in a hyper-wealthy hereditary elite. The three top people running our country today are an Ayn Rand phony who has longed to destroy these safety net programs (“entitlement reform”) throughout his career, a Senate majority leader whose cynicism knows no bounds, and a pathologically lying, mentally ill, narcissistic president who cares nothing about those “little people” who put him in office.

    Now many of these voters, the Republican version of “the American People,” will be in the crosshairs. Why should the richest people, shareholders and corporations pay taxes for services for people that Senator Grassley of Iowa says won’t “invest” money, but will just piss it away on liquor and chasing women. FYI, I don’t think he’s just talking about immigrants and the people on the North Side of Milwaukee.

  2. Tim says:

    Frank, you have a good read on the current situation but the question is not about now, it’s about the future. If the Dems or any independents don’t create their brand of what they’re FOR now, they’ll have no hope to make any electoral gains.

    Here is where the Dems can learn from Bernie and his fiery rhetoric. “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood” -Burnham

    Trump has proven that enough voters don’t care what you say as long as you say it loud. A faithful opposition needs to pick up on that, to turn away any of the limp-wristed Dems from another time.

  3. Troll says:

    I have not seen one Democrat in favor of a working class tax cut. Any cut to federal taxes is apparently an attack on entitlements. How do you expect the economy to grow without incentives. In the Democrats eyes all federal revenue is there’s to redistribute. They would be better off stringing up billionaire s like there doing in Saudi Arabia. Give us the people’s money.

  4. Tim, a couple of points. Regarding, now versus the future, I believe that the future is being defined now by the extraordinary damage that the Republicans are doing to this country in real time. As for your second point, I could not agree more. It would be a great thing for large numbers of people to vote “for” candidates as opposed to just against the bad other guy, and for that candidate to not just be less in bed with the donors and lobbyists than the Republicans.

    Troll, you may want to make an appointment for your annual eye exam and probably take the second semester in that course in remedial reading.

  5. Thomas says:

    Thanks, Jon, for a thoughtful reflection on potential consequences of the “tax breaks for the super rich and shafts for the rest” bill that Mitch and Paul are selling to suckers who still believe that trickle down economics is good for the working class.

    I second what Frank said to Troll in post # 4.

  6. Troll says:

    Illnois lost population in 89 of 102 counties according to Census figure s in 2015-2016. Raising taxes affects individuals and companies behaviors. Illinois stay socialist.

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