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October 16, 2003

Tax Elderly Good, Tax Rich Bad

So the GOP thinks raising taxes on upper-middle class elderly is a good thing, as long as their wealthy contributors get to keep their big tax cut.

Or at least that's the message from the Medicare prescription drug negotiations. To pay for the bill, rather than cut back the Bush tax cut, the GOP is pushing to make elderly folks making more than $75,000 pay more for Medicare:

"We're looking at less subsidies for high-income people in Part B," said Oklahoma Republican Don Nickles...

Nickles said the negotiators may modify a Senate proposal, considered but not finalized earlier this year, that would have had individuals with incomes from $75,000 to $100,000 paying half the premium and those above $100,000 paying all of it. Sponsors estimated about 3 percent of the elderly would be affected.

So why does the GOP screw better-off elderly folks, while fighting to protect general wealthier tax payers so hard?

Because they see this as a first step. The more they can divide the elderly into different groups-- some receiving prescription drugs through Medicaid, others now having to pay more, others in Medicare HMOs-- the more they can pit different elderly against each other, pick them off politically, and eventually get the votes to have Medicare "whither on the vine" in the old Newt Gingrich phrase.

Their goal is have more and more of the wealthy, and then the middle class, paying the full freight, so eventually they'll vote to kill all universal benefits--- everyone will just get the health care they can pay for, with marginal Medicaid-style welfare aid for the very poor.

And with massive tax cuts for the wealthy starving the federal government of funds, the money available for the poor elderly will just continue to shrink.

Sound too cynical? I've linked to this talk before by Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities before, but it's worth reading thoroughly to understand how the whole GOP tax cut/block grant/means testing combo of proposals is part of a long term assault on social services. I really recommend you read it.

Posted by Nathan at October 16, 2003 10:43 PM