Here is a fact: According to the most recent release of U.S. Census data (2016), West Virginia has a poverty rate of 17.9 percent. In other words, about one in every six households in this state exists somewhere at or south of the poverty line – $25,100 for a family of four.
It’s not as if abject poverty is new to Appalachia. There has been plenty of time and opportunity for past administrations and elected representatives to solve this Gordian Knot – and some, via social welfare programs, public work programs and federal health care insurance, have at least tried to ease the burden for families who, in many cases, are simply trying to put dinner on the table.
But our current gaggle of representatives and senators has only exacerbated the conditions here on the ground. For those who have contributed to the pain, it’s time to come home. For good.
This past December, the Republican Congress passed and a Republican president signed into law a tax reform bill that will cost our Treasury trillions of dollars and create annual deficits of over $1 trillion as far as the eye can see.
For good measure, these folks – who campaigned for your vote as fiscal conservatives – threw an additional $80 billion at the military to balloon its annual budget to nearly $800 billion.
How is the U.S. going to pay for all of this? Katy bar your bank account! Republicans are coming for your Medicaid and your Medicare subsidies and they are looking covetously at your Social Security benefits. In West Virginia, where roughly 3 of 5 people receive federal health insurance of one kind or another, the effects would be profoundly crippling.
Here is what the Congressional Budget office says: Implementing the tax cut adds an estimated $2.289 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.
Who pays? According to the CBO, income groups earning under $20,000 in 2019 (about 23 percent of taxpayers) will contribute to deficit reduction. In other words, the most economically vulnerable among us will incur a cost, mainly by receiving fewer subsidies due to the repeal of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act – also a part of the tax cut legislation. In 2021, 2023 and 2025, income groups earning under $40,000 (about 43 percent of taxpayers) will contribute to deficit reduction, and in 2027, income groups earning under $75,000 (about 76 percent of taxpayers) will contribute to deficit reduction.
So why are Republican members of Congress like our very own Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia bragging about the budget-busting tax reform law?
Capito’s pitch – the law is working for everyone – is flat-out malarkey. News reports are thick with evidence that corporations padded their own bank accounts and juiced their own holdings via stock buybacks and did not share their tax savings with the rank-and-file. Sen. Capito played to the donor class and not to the people she was elected to serve.
We do not think Capito was hoodwinked. She’s smarter than that. She knew exactly what she was signing onto when she voted for the legislation. And now she’s trying to sell a flawed narrative.
Well, we suppose, it’s a lot easier for the senator to praise a wholly uneven tax cut than it is to speak honestly to power about a trade war, immigration, detainments, malfeasance and a foreign adversarial power influencing our elections.
That would take political courage.
She’s lucky. She’s not up for re-election this fall. Other Republicans? Not. So. Much.