Every tax loophole is sacred.
That's the prime guiding principle of the budget Republicans are trying to push through the Senate. Republicans claim to be concerned with reducing the federal deficit, which their Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) described as a "dangerous financial crisis." But are they willing to sacrifice a single tax loophole to solve the problem? No. And that's telling about their real priorities.
The Republican roadmap for the coming decade would cut government operations by $5 trillion, taking mostly from programs that help working families. And it assumes a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has helped more than 16 million Americans find affordable health insurance for themselves and their families. It's harsh stuff.
But for all its smashing and slashing of programs low- and middle-income families depend on, it would keep in place each and every tax deduction, exclusion, and credit that benefits wealthy individuals and big corporations. This Republican budget is a clear confession that the so-called "dangerous financial crisis" is actually less important to them than protecting special tax treatment for the rich and powerful.
And it's big bucks: Some $1.5 trillion will go out the back door of the tax code in tax expenditures in 2016 alone, more than we actually spend in appropriations. Of that, billions of dollars is indefensible special interest lucre. And that doesn't even count the revenue lost from money sheltered in overseas tax havens like the Cayman Islands.
So if Senate Republicans succeed in pushing this budget through Congress, what's in and what's out?
In: Tax loopholes for the super-wealthy, like inheritance tax shelters, special depreciation for corporate jets, and a lower tax rate for hedge fund managers.
Out: More than $1 trillion for basic economic security for low- or modest-income families -- things like unemployment insurance, basic nutrition assistance, help with child care, and Pell grants for college.
In: Hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate tax giveaways, like incentives for shipping American jobs overseas and reincorporating in a foreign country, and special breaks for coal, oil, and gas companies.
Out: Roughly $400 billion to provide health insurance to low-income families and nursing home care for seniors through Medicaid.
In: Insurance companies once again denying coverage for preexisting conditions and charging women more for health care.
Out: The health insurance that 16 million Americans have gained through the Affordable Care Act -- plus no-cost preventive care, such as cancer screenings and annual wellness visits, and subsidies to help people with modest incomes afford coverage in health reform's marketplaces.
In short, the wealthier you are and the more you care about yourself over your neighbor or your country, the more you'll like this Republican budget. It achieves balance entirely on the backs of middle-class families and our most vulnerable citizens, without asking billionaires or big corporations to pay -- forget a fair share -- one penny more toward our nation's prosperity. That's why I plan to vote against this budget in the Senate, and why I'll continue pushing for common-sense policies to close unfair tax loopholes and giveaways.
I hope Republicans will join me. Because some things are more sacred than tax loopholes.