The Open Dimension

Commentary on social issues; politics; religion and spirituality

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I am a semi-retired psychotherapist/psychiatric social worker and certified hypnotherapist. Originally a practicing attorney, I changed careers during the 1980's. My interests include history, constitutional law, Hindustani classical music, yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Winners and Losers in the Debt Deal ( The Nation, August 2, 2011 )

Credit- AP Images

August 2, 2011

Who will the debt deal help, and who will it hurt? ( 1 of 9 )

The Senate passed a debt deal today that will raise the debt ceiling into 2013 and reduce government spending by $2.5 trillion. Now that the bill has been signed into law by President Obama’s, it’s worth asking: who stands to benefit from the hard-won plan, and who stands to lose?

As The Nation’s George Zornick explains,
the deal is a rout of the lower and middle classes by the wealthiest Americans. Since the deal relies entirely on spending cuts with no revenues—don’t believe the White House spin that revenues are possible, because that would require Republicans to suddenly desire them—the wealthy escape any sacrifice since very few of them rely on the government services that will be cut. There are a lot of ways the cuts will be worked out in the next few months, but here are the definite winners and losers of the bill.

Losers: Veterans (2 of 9)

Almost half of the first round of cuts will come from “security spending,” which includes the Pentagon budget but also the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and, notably, veterans benefits and compensation. More than 2.2 million veterans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, many of whom have been seriously injured and require extensive care. The Disabled Veterans of America already has said it is “anxious” to see how these spending cuts are assembled.

Losers: Students (3 of 9)

Graduate students would be the hardest hit, as the bill proposes an elimination of the interest subsidy on federal student loans for “
almost all” of them. This means that beginning July 1, 2012, grad students will be responsible for the interest on their loans while in school and during any subsequent deferment period.

Also, while the federal government currently offers subsidies for on-time payments in order to promote responsible pay-backs, they will be eliminated under the debt ceiling deal. Also, education accounts for the
largest share of non-defense discretionary spending. It’s nearly inconceivable that budget-cutters won’t target that juicy budget line in making their cuts.

Losers: Seniors (4 of 9)

Medicare is subject to across-the-board cuts in the super-committee, and if the trigger is pulled, provider payments will be slashed—though only up to 2 percent. The makeup of the super-committee and outside-the-Beltway campaigns to protect Medicare will determine a lot about the degree of cuts, but remember that inside the Beltway, the “left” side of the debate has been defined by President Obama and the Gang of Six as raising the eligibility age to 67 and/or $500 billion in cuts. So this probably won’t end well.

Losers: The poor (5 of 9)

Medicaid will be subject to cuts by the super-committee. The Republican position, articulated in the Ryan budget, is a devastating 35 percent reduction in the next ten years, even as health costs rise. (However, Medicaid is protected from any cuts if the trigger should go off). Beyond that, federal housing assistance is the fourth largest slice of non-defense discretionary spending and is thus a likely target for cuts.

Losers: The unemployed (6 of 9)

Unlike what happened during the December showdown over the Bush tax cuts, the White House was unable (or unwilling) to secure any extension of help for the jobless. That December extension will expire at the end of this year, and this was one of the last best shots to make sure that 3.8 million people won’t lose their benefits at that point.

Winners: The wealthy (7 of 9)

Up until very recently, Obama and most Democrats were demanding that wealthy Americans pony up for some deficit reduction. The demands were admittedly narrow, and focused on itemized deductions on people who owned private jets or multiple homes—but both groups are exempted from sacrifice under the current deal.

Winners: Wall Street tycoons (8 of 9)

In his budget proposal earlier this year, Obama recommended taxing the profit share of private equity managers, venture capitalists and other Wall Street high-rollers at the ordinary personal income tax rate, instead of at the smaller capital gains rate. No such deal was struck under the current bill, so these mega-rich traders won’t spend a penny reducing the deficit—again, unless Boehner undergoes a religious experience and appoints pro-tax, anti-Wall Street Republicans to the super-committee. (He’d have to spend a long time looking first).

Winners: Oil and gas companies (9 of 9)

Obama repeatedly demanded that oil and gas companies lose their tax breaks, since they are raking in record profits and enjoy many deductions and subsidies in the tax code. “If we choose to keep a tax break for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of millions of dollars, that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship (and) that means we’ve got to stop funding grants for medical research,” Obama
said in June. Since those tax breaks were preserved, in hindsight that soundbite was more of a prediction than a warning.

For more on the full repercussions of the bill, read George Zornick’s
Who's Helped and Who's Harmed By Debt Deal?