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Republicans Use TPP Trade Deal To Slash Medicare By:: Rmuse Monday, May, 18th, 2015

It is reasonable to assume that most Americans understand that there is no way to make something inherently ugly more appealing, but it might be possible to reduce something’s repugnance with attractive adornments. It is the same with legislation. Since Republicans have had control of the House, and now the Senate, Democrats have admirably attempted to ‘adorn’ horrible Republican legislation with provisions and amendments to reduce the damage Republicans seem intent on wreaking just for the pleasure of seeing Americans suffer. Now, despite Democrats attempt to ‘adorn’ the hideous and secretly corporate-written Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement and make it less-damaging to Americans, Republicans found a way to make it more harmful and punish Americans in the process.

Republicans will, and love to, use any reason to slash Medicare whether it is raising the eligibility age for benefits, turning the system into a coupon, or use their sequester to ‘save money‘ for corporate tax cuts. Now Republicans in the Senate have discovered yet another means of cutting Medicare to add insult to injury from the already damage-ridden Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that benefits no-one but the big corporations who wrote the ill-advised proposal.

Americans are still feeling the effects of the last trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), that has cost millions of Americans their jobs and businesses in spite of promises it was an economic benefit to the nation. Despite President Obama’s pledge that he will protect Americans’ jobs in the TPP, and there is no reason to believe he will not do everything within his power to uphold his promise, he is not President for life and Republicans have shown their predilection to change any deal to further benefit corporations regardless the thousands of Americans’ jobs lost. Subsequently, House and Senate Democrats stepped up and added a measure to the Republican bill to give the President authority to ‘fast-track’ the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement to help protect workers when they lose their jobs.

In February, Representatives Sander Levin (D-MI) and Adam Smith (D-WA) along with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)introduced legislation to extend, only through 2020, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program that expires at the end of 2015. The TAA renewal is to extend the vital 2009-2010 expansion of the program that provides assistance for thousands of service industry workers who are affected by trade deals, as well as the thousands of workers who have, and will, lose their jobs due to trade agreements with countries the United States does not have an ironclad free trade agreement with. Department of Labor estimates reveal that over  two million workers have had to rely on the TAA program to receive benefits just to make ends meet, and get the training they require to find new employment. Congress included a very short-term TAA extension in the omnibus bill last year, but the program’s statutory authority expires in its entirety at the end of 2015 when workers and businesses are left completely abandoned.

The new version of the bill also extends ‘TAA for Firms‘ which helps businesses adversely affected by trade deals regain their competitiveness. It is bad enough Republicans are pushing ‘fast track’ authority on TPP to further enrich the corporations that wrote the trade deal, but since they cannot accept the Democrats’ attempt to help American workers or businesses in the new TAA extension, or under any circumstances, they found other Americans and an industry to inflict pain on; senior citizens and the healthcare provider industry. That they can slash Medicare in the process is just a value-added benefit that should make the corporations that stand to benefit most from the TPP wet themselves with excitement.

One of the benefits of the new Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill is helping displaced workers by providing a tax credit to help them pay for health insurance when they are unemployed. Democrats attempt to help workers gave Republicans the opening they needed and instead of leaving the TAA alone and consider it a reasonable concession for giving President Obama ‘fast-track’ authority on the corporate-written TPP, Republicans despoiled the ‘adornment’ by cutting $700 million from Medicare.

The Republican assault on the TAA incurred the wrath of nationwide health providers who rightly object to the GOP ‘fix’ because it includes a 0.25 percent cut in Medicare payments. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Medicare payment cut amounts to $700 million. The amount, regardless how much, is just another assault on the elderly, hospitals, physicians, nursing homes and home health and hospice providers who have already been forced to absorb hundreds-of-billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicare program in recent years. The latest GOP assault was in 2011 with the 2 percent cut in Medicare payments as a result of the Republicans’ precious sequester. The 2 percent cut will continue for eight more years unless Republicans find it in their black hearts to end the sequester cuts once and for all.

A group of healthcare providers issued a letter to legislators on Tuesday signed by the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the American Health Care Association (skilled nursing trade group) and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. The letter “urged Congress to strike this provision from the legislation. Reductions to Medicare payments have real impacts on patients and providers. Additionally alarming is the use of Medicare cuts to pay for non-Medicare related legislation, a precedent that we believe is unwise.” It is also heartless to include Medicare cuts to an international trade deal written by corporations, but no-one has ever accused Republicans of having a heart; or being unafraid to find unrelated reasons to cut Medicare, food stamps, housing assistance, or unemployment benefits in other legislation.

To make the cost of the trade bill just a little more painful for Americans besides those that will lose their jobs, the elderly who will lose out with Medicare cuts, and healthcare providers facing another .025% cut in Medicare payments, the Republican adornment to the TAA extension includes damage to struggling families with cuts in the child tax credit. Republicans could no more explain why cutting the child tax credit is crucial to ‘fast-tracking’ the TPP than they could cutting Medicare, but it is safe to say they just love hurting Americans; particularly in advancing the whims of corporations.


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