There are hardly any situations where there is only one option to address or solve a problem, and it is wise to explore every available alternative to find a solution that causes the least harm. If there is one thing Americans have learned about Republicans over the years, it is their preference of causing harm to the most people if it benefits their wealthy benefactors. This week, Republicans chose the only option they know to keep Stafford Student Loan interest at their current rates and as usual, they protected corporations instead of millions of low-income Americans’ health or student loan interest.
In the Senate, two competing bills to prevent student loan interest from doubling on July 1 failed to pass as expected. The Democratic proposal was closing tax loopholes in S-Corporations to pay for keeping interest rates at 3.4%, and the measure failed to garner the super-majority needed to pass a Republican filibuster. The vote was 51 – 43 for the measure with one Democrat voting against it. The Republican bill failed with a vote count of 34 – 62 with nine Republicans voting against it.
The Republican amendment eliminated the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund because it provided them with a means of hurting the most people while protecting a few corporations. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of trying to create a scapegoat and said their plan was designed to fail to portray Republicans as “bad guys” instead of giving corporations more tax breaks. McConnell used the typical canard that closing the tax loopholes will hurt the “very companies we’re counting on to hire today’s college graduates.” However, the corporations have had the tax breaks for years and they have not hired today’s, or yesterday’s college graduates, so McConnell’s assertion is fallacious and the same tired “don’t tax the job creators” meme they have stuck by for a decade, if not longer.
The program the Republicans are lusting to eliminate, the Prevention and Public Health Fund is “an unprecedented investment in promoting wellness, preventing disease, and protecting against public health emergencies.” The fund helps cash-strapped states prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes that account for 75% of the nation’s health spending, and according to a report from the non-profit, non-partisan Trust for America’s Health, it yields a return of $5.60 for every one dollar of investment by fighting diseases and illnesses before they happen. So far, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $1.25 billion in Prevention Fund grants to combat health issues that account for 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year. Obviously, in the Republicans’ minds, saving lives is not nearly as important as protecting corporate profits and it is a recurring theme when funding anything becomes an issue.
Every state benefits from the Prevention Fund, and some of the programs are obesity prevention, HIV/AIDS testing and prevention, cancer screenings, and especially community health programs using evidence-based interventions to prevent heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and strengthening employer wellness programs. The Republican proposal prevents corporations from paying taxes on profits instead of passing them on to shareholders who avoid paying Medicare, Social Security, and other payroll taxes to the tune of nearly $6 billion annually that are lost revenue. Republicans claimed they really want to prevent loan interest from doubling, but only if Democrats join them in eliminating what John Boehner calls a “slush fund” that serves women, children, infirm, and elderly Americans.
The move by Republicans follows their standard procedure of holding a beneficial program hostage to protect corporations and wealthy Americans from paying their fair share in taxes. It is a two-fold advantage for Republicans because regardless the outcome, more Americans will suffer in order to protect the wealthy. If Democrats acquiesce and abolish the Prevention Fund, millions of low-income, elderly, and working-poor Americans lose access to preventative medicine that will cost billions as more people suffer chronic diseases, and if Democrats hold out for closing corporate tax loopholes, millions of college graduates will see their loan interest double beginning July 1 of this year. It is a perfect scenario for Republicans because regardless the outcome, millions of Americans will suffer and that is, after all, the GOP’s impetus for protecting corporate profits and wealthy Americans, and obviously, for pure entertainment.
Since last year, Republicans have taken the first payroll tax cut, START Treaty, debt ceiling increase, disaster relief, and now loan interest reduction hostage to protect the wealthy and their corporations. Each time millions of Americans have paid the price for their criminal activity, and a small percentage of the wealthy profited from the GOP’s obduracy to reach an outcome that helps the majority of Americans. It is as if Republicans are so single-minded that they are unable to choose any option that fails to protect the rich, and if they can decimate millions of Americans in the process, they seem genuinely pleased with the outcome. Their cruelty in holding America hostage during the debt ceiling crisis has been regarded as the worst act of a political party since the Civil War, and their reluctance to protect Americans’ health at a great expense borders on pure evil as well as fiscally irresponsible.
No American should be surprised at the Republicans hostage taking because Mitch McConnell pledged to use the tactic often after the debt ceiling fiasco that cost America its first ever credit downgrade and nearly caused a credit default because as he boasted, “it is now a proven effective negotiating tactic.” Instead of shame for causing damage to the country’s fiscal health and citizens’ physical health, McConnell was pleased to use a criminal tactic to protect the richest Americans. Republicans are vile human beings for myriad reasons, but none as much as deliberately preventing Americans from receiving preventative care that is proven to be life and money saving. However, Republicans have demonstrated that they will starve 50 million poor Americans, restrict women, children, and the elderly from receiving housing and health assistance, and force birth on low-income women to prevent the rich from paying their fair share, so this latest episode, although egregious, is standard procedure for the party most likely to cause death and despair to protect their precious, wealthy “job creators.” One wonders how they sleep at night, but with no heart, no conscience, and no morals, they most likely sleep well.