President Obama and Speaker Boehner have been in negotiations for weeks to figure out how to extend a series of tax cuts and how to avoid the "sequester": $1.2 trillion in additional spending cuts that will happen on January 1st unless Congress acts to stop it. As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta explained, sequestration is "an indiscriminate formula" that "was never designed to be implemented. It was designed to trigger such untold damage that it would force people to do the right thing."
Gee, who could have predicted that that would be a bad idea? You know, besides anyone paying attention to four times Republicans brought the government to the brink of shutting down, not to mention their ransoming of the debt ceiling, as Standards and Poor described it when they downgraded the United States' credit, the "political brinksmanship" and the use of "the statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default" as "political bargaining chips."
In yet another act of good faith (that was sarcasm, folks), Speaker John Boehner decided to scrap negotiations and vote again on a reverse-Robin Hood plan that Republicans had already passed earlier this year.
Here are the highlights of Speaker Boehner's plan:
- Give to the rich: even more tax cuts for millionaires. Under "Plan B," millionaires would see an average additional tax cut $50,000 on top of the Bush tax cuts.
- Steal from the poor: raise taxes on working families. Speaker Boehner's "Plan B" would raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 by an average of $1,000 by ending improvements in key tax credits for low-income families (the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit).
- Cut unemployment insurance benefits to millions of jobless Americans a few days after Christmas.
- Take food away from 46 million hungry families. "Plan B" would cut funding for food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) by $35.6 billion over 10 years. It would deny SNAP benefits to 2 million people all together (mostly seniors and families with children), cut off free school meals for an additional 280,000 low-income children, and reduce benefits by $57 per month for a family of four starting in September.
- Cut health care for families relying on Medicare and Medicaid. "Plan B" would wipe out the rest of the Affordable Care Act's Prevention and Public Health Fund, which funds preventative care for low-income Americans. It would reduce funding for hospitals in our nation's most vulnerable communities (called "disproportionate share hospitals") and cut doctors' reimbursement for Medicare patients by 27 percent. It would also cause 350,000 people to forego Obamacare subsidies, cut Medicaid funding for people in Puerto Rico and other territories.
- Deny protection to millions of children and older people who are victims of abuse and neglect. "Plan B" would permanently terminate the Social Services Block Grant, which funds vital programs like Child Protective Services, foster care, Adult Protective Services, and child care programs.
- Do nothing to prevent the devastating cuts in the sequester. The across-the-board cuts contained in the sequester would blindly slash funding to everything from national defense to Head Start, from job training and placement services for veterans (and everyone else) to maternal health and childhood immunization. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the discretionary spending cuts associated with the sequester will result in the loss of 2.58 million jobs over the next three years. Senator Harkin (D-IA) published a detailed, state-by-state breakdown of sequester cuts to some vital services in your state.