Piggies at the Trough: ACA Repeal Delivers Billions in Tax Cuts to the Top.

pig-at-trothSo it begins. If you are among America’s wealthiest, the first wave of Republican tax cuts is about to come your way, but at a terrible cost: You will receive an immediate, billion dollar windfall tax cut when millions lose their ACA health insurance – and for some, their health and their lives!

And it gets worse. While padding the wallets of America’s billionaires, Obamacare’s repeal/delay will significantly raise taxes on millions of low and moderate income families. Brandon DeBot of the ever reliable Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains below.

With so many millionaires, billionaires and corporations about to benefit from wave after wave of Republican tax cuts, the Piggies are gathering at the trough for a looooong, extended feast. And what is a corporate or human Billionaire Piggy going to do with even MORE money at their disposal?  Well, it’s not too likely that those already flush with cash will spend their billions in the U.S. IMMEDIATELY to stimulate economic growth (so much for that favorite and fundamental rule of economics, the multiplier effect, Piggies, when your windfalls aren’t quickly spent here at home).

Billionaire Piggies also can’t provide the kind immediate economic stimulus that Obamacare now does through spending for/at clinics, hospitals, doctors and specialists, dentists, PA’s, nurses, orderlies, hospital cafeteria workers, med administrators and staff, med suppliers, med device manufacturers, drug stores, drug companies (Yuck!), home health care services, and on and on. Now that’s stimulus! That is a multiplier effect!

Ironically, one way this Piggy tax giveaway WILL stimulate the economy is by making caring Americans lucky enough to retain their health insurance sick to their stomachs and in need of immediate health services.

ACA Repeal Would Deliver Billions in Tax Cuts to the Top

By Brandon DeBot

Republicans’ planned bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is expected to be similar to the repeal bill that President Obama vetoed in January 2016, would give an immediate windfall tax cut totaling billions to the highest-income Americans by eliminating two Medicare taxes — the additional Hospital Insurance tax and the Medicare tax on unearned income — that both fall only on high-income filers, as we explain in two new papers. At the same time, Republicans’ plans for ACA “repeal and delay” would likely significantly raise taxes on about 7 million low- and moderate-income families by eliminating their premium tax credits and would threaten existing coverage for millions more.

The size of the tax cuts for the highest-income households is staggering. Millionaire households would reap a full 80 percent of the tax cut from repealing these two provisions in 2017, as our first analysis explains using Tax Policy Center (TPC) estimates. Their tax cuts would average $49,370 apiece.

The very highest-income households would benefit even more. The top 400 highest-income filers had adjusted gross incomes averaging $318 million in 2014 (the last year for which data are available), according to the Internal Revenue Service. If their income levels and income sources in 2017 are similar to those in 2014 and the ACA’s Medicare taxes on high-income households are repealed, our second analysis estimates that:

The top 400 filers will get tax cuts averaging roughly $7 million apiece;
They will receive a net total of about $2.8 billion in tax cuts — roughly $28 billion over ten years if these levels remain similar; and The incomes of the top 400 after federal income taxes would rise by almost 3 percent.

Meanwhile, the roughly 160 million households with incomes below $200,000 would get nothing from the repeal of these two taxes. In fact, ACA repeal would significantly raise taxes on about 7 million low- and moderate-income families due to the loss of their premium tax credits — worth an average of $4,800 in 2017 — that help them buy health coverage through the health insurance marketplaces and afford to go to the doctor when needed.

The total tax cut for the top 400 is roughly the value of premium tax credits that 813,000 people in the 20 smallest states and Washington, D.C. would lose combined if the ACA is repealed without a replacement (see graph).

 

 

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AIDS Lobby Day: Day of SHAME!!

pig

Shameful: Massachusetts legislators are making the wrong choices. They want to feed the Pentagon Pig, not end homelessness and AIDS in Massachusetts.

Two months ago the Massachusetts legislature unanimously voted to give $177 million to upgrade military bases in Massachusetts. Yet those supposedly advocating for people with HIV are asking for so little (a $4 million line-item increase in funding) as Beacon Hill again fails to dole out enough to end the epidemic. They all seem to think that there is not enough to fund the AIDS Budget beyond the amount it was funded FOUR YEARS AGO! But there is money to be had to do what needs to be done, if you demand the state change its priorities.

The $177 million to upgrade 6 obsolete military bases in Massachusetts is part of a state funded effort to persuade the Pentagon to keep them open. That effort includes a “task force” of political hacks, such as former U.S. Senator William “Mo” Cowan, and private sector insiders from defense-industry lobbying firms. All are pushing to feed the Pentagon Pig.

Yet here we are on another AIDS Lobby Day, begging again for just a bit of additional funding: It amounts to a few crumbs. By comparison the U.S. Military Budget is already $756 BILLION! Lockheed, Grumman and the other military contractors feeding at the public trough do not need any more of our money!

In Massachusetts, however, HIV/AIDS and homelessness are intertwined. Each feeds the other. Thousands and thousands of families and individuals are forced to live in shelters and motels – among the states homeless these are some of the lucky ones. But where is the money that will end homelessness and end AIDS here in Massachusetts?

Meanwhile, in New York State, Pentagon Pork is NOT so much a priority. Ending AIDS by 2020 is on the front burner of the state legislative agenda. Not so here in Massachusetts! Massachusetts won’t spend what is needed to end this costly epidemic. They only budget enough to keep keep it rolling on and on. Well Beacon Hill, where is the money for people with HIV? In fact, Beacon Hill, Project Able, AIDS Action, DPH…where is your task force, your plan to end AIDS?

SHAME!!

Fight the Congressional Recess Madness: Attend a Town Hall Meeting

 The sequester cuts in medical research, public health programs and global health funding significantly diminish the likelihood of there being an AIDS free generation anytime soon. This is unacceptable, but there is something YOU can do. It is August and Congress is now on Summer recess. The time of year when all good congresspeople return home to meet their constituents. That means that at congressional town Hall meetings across the country, crazed constituents are showing up to tell their representatives that either Obamacare, gay marriage, food stamps or federal reserve policy are one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. At times it can be amusing to watch some of these wing-nuts spew their blatant idiocy. Often they do a disservice to the causes and political affiliations they represent.

However, with so much at stake do you believe you should be sitting back and not participating? Do you want to risk the possibility that right-wing loons like the one in the video set the political agenda for members of congress such as the spineless Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama?

Well then, how about showing up at your representative’s town hall meeting to bring some sanity into the conversation? That includes talking about ending a pandemic that otherwise will cost tens of millions of lives and billions and billions and billions more in dollars. Tell those attending, including your representative, that the sequester must be overturned and funding put into programs that will end AIDS in our lifetime.

town-hall-meetingThe American Public Health Association (ASPH), along with others groups like ACT UP, are calling on supporters of science and reason to fight the congressional recess madness: Attend YOUR representative’s town hall event. They will be running throughout August and into September so check the town hall schedule here. If there is one being held in your vicinity, show up and vociferously counter the distorted and the bizarre with a message of humanity and hope: That we can end AIDS!

Here are some talking points is you are unsure of what to say.  The ASPH also has provided a tool box and talking points.

Or if you can’t attend a town hall meeting you can still write your congressman via the ASPH. Or you can reach your senators’ and representative’s through the U .S . Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. You can also find state and district office information and numbers online:

Then after you take action consider joining, or forming, an ACT UP chapter. Make that a priority too.

Sequestration: Public Health Pays a Price

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For more than 30 years the U.S. has invested in public health programs and research to fight HIV/AIDS.  Now HIV infection is a chronically managed condition with far fewer people dying from AIDS. Now there is the possibility of Ending AIDS. But agencies need adequate funding to make that so. Among other things, successful intervention in an epidemic requires educating medical professionals and the public, along with outreach, referrals, and health care for those at-risk or infected. Since 2008, however, budget cuts have resulted in the loss of more than 46,000 public health jobs while other positions have been furloughed.

Now sequestration is having its effects. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have seen an additional 5%, or $285 million in cuts (actually the overall FY 2012 to FY 2013 reduction to CDC’s program level funding was $580 million dollars!). Ending AIDS will require wide-scale HIV screening along with Treatment as Prevention access to HIV medications. Yet sequestration cuts mean 424,000 fewer HIV tests will be conducted just by those who receive CDC funding. Also, an estimated 7,400 Americans will be denied access to life saving, transmission preventing, HIV antivirals through the federal AIDS Drug Assistance Program (the Ryan White Program).

Programs to prevent cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes are also being cut by almost $200 million. This is on top of reduced funding for food inspections, public health emergency and disease outbreak preparedness, and support for already struggling state and local public health agencies.

Here in Massachusetts, HIV programs have been being cut for years and MORE WILL BE CUT! Before sequestration, the state did not provide near enough money to fill in for repeated year-in, year-out, level funding and cuts. Now we have sequestration. This is no way to end AIDS in Massachusetts!

AMFAR recently reported that because of the first round of sequestration cuts,  treatment for 171,900 people will not be available and 39,200 more will die of AIDS around the globe. Sequestration 2.0 in October brings an even larger 8% funding cut to vast swaths of the federal budget, includng programs that could end AIDS throughout the world. This is no way to end a pandemic!

Fifty years ago TB was on the verge of being wiped out. However, there was a failure of committment to a global effort for doing so. Today, there are almost a million and half unnecessary deaths a year from TB and fighting it costs tens of billions of dollars.

Today the AIDS epidemic is at a similar crossroads. Yet, sequestration and austerity stand in the way of ending AIDS. Do we let HIV/AIDS continue to spin out of control? Do we lose tens of millions of lives and spend billions upon billions of dollars fighting a perpetual pandemic just like TB? OR, do we fight mindless austerity, overturn the sequester, and fund an end AIDS agenda?

Next: What YOU can do.

WBUR: End Of AIDS In Mass. Within Reach

ACT UP Boston’s End AIDS efforts may be having some effect.

This past Winter ACT UP met with Rebecca Haag of Boston’s AIDS Action to discuss the establishment of a coordinated effort to End AIDS  in Massachusetts (ACT UP  Boston released its own End AIDS Plan, or budget, last Winter). As the story by WBUR illustrates, the states HIV power players, such as the Mass Department of Public Health and AAC/Fenway Health, are now working on doing just that.

So why shouldn’t they? Massachusetts is unique as a state that provides access to health care and services that can be used to end AIDS.  Treatment as Prevention and other tools such as HIV PEP and PrEP and are readily available here. Also, compared to other states, Massachusetts is fiscally fit.

The Bay State  just needs to make that short term investment for that  long term payoff of ending a deadly, costly epidemic. Getting Massachusetts to make that investment is where people like you come in. It will require a political push on Beacon Hill for funding to make it happen. With your help it can be done. So get on board and ACT UP.

WBUR: End Of AIDS In Mass. Within Reach

Could Massachusetts stop — not just reduce but actually stop — the spread of HIV and new cases of AIDS?

Some activists say that with a little more money and a targeted plan, the end of AIDS is within reach here.

“It’s possible for us to end the AIDS epidemic in Massachusetts,” said Rebecca Haag, president and CEO of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. “This came on our watch and I believe we should put an end to it.”

You may be shaking your head and asking, “Really?”

Well, Haag says, think about this figure: 657. That’s the total number of new HIV casesreported to the state Department of Public Health in 2011. Compare that with the many hundreds of Massachusetts residents who were dying of AIDS every year from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.

In 1994, the worst year, 1,156 died. Overall, nearly 13,000 Massachusetts residents died of the disease, and more than 18,000 are now living with it.

But recent years have seen major progress.

“In Massachusetts, we have been successful in dramatically reducing new incidence of HIV infection and are approaching levels that start to look like an unsustainable epidemic, over the long term,” said Kevin Cranston, who directs the Bureau of Infectious Disease at the Department of Public Health.

When might there be so few new cases that HIV dies out? Cranston says it’s hard to predict, in part because Massachusetts is down to the hardest-to-reach cases. Most of them are young gay men in poor city neighborhoods.

Like Frank. When his dad found out he was gay, he was kicked out of the house. Frank, who’s 21, turned to prostitution.

“I would sell myself for food. I would sell myself for a place to sleep. It makes you feel gross,” he said. “That’s why I stopped. It made me feel really gross. I’d have to get drunk in order to have sex. I won’t do it again.”

Frank’s solution, for now, is to stop having sex. His last HIV test was negative and he plans to keep it that way.

Frank had the test at a drop-in program in Cambridge called Youth on Fire. He says the meals, showers and counseling are his backbone, but Frank is still just barely getting by. If Frank had a stable life, with a doctor and health insurance, there’s a pill he could take every day to prevent HIV. But he doesn’t. If Frank got the virus, there’s another daily pill that would virtually ensure he didn’t pass it to someone else. But would he take it?

Prevention and treatment have come a long way, says Kenneth Mayer, Medical Research Director at Fenway Health.

“But each of these approaches does involve resources and does involve the buy-in of individuals,” Mayer said.

Frank would have to be tested regularly, check in at a clinic regularly, and he’d have to be prepared to take a pill every day for the rest of his life, “Because if people take it erratically, one can create resistant virus,” Mayer explained. “Which will make it harder to treat later and we don’t want that to happen.”

Mayer, who treated the first cases of AIDS in Boston in the early 1980s, says Massachusetts will have to put a lot of support for people like Frank in place if it hopes to end the AIDS epidemic.

The Department of Public Health is finalizing a statewide plan. Haag has one of her own.

“First of all, we need to test every sexually active person in Massachusetts,” Haag suggested. “We’re not that far away from oral tests being available in drug stores.”

Haag’s plan also includes making sure everyone at risk can get and afford their medicine, has stable housing, community support and on-going education. The cost? About $150 million a year, Haag estimates — double the $75 million the state currently spends on HIV/AIDS services.

“That investment has significant long-term payoffs in terms of reducing health care costs,” Haag said. “And that’s what everyone is talking about right now. HIV is a place we can demonstrate that works.”

Haag estimates the state has saved $2.4 billion since 2000 by reducing new cases of HIV. (See the chart below.) That may sound high, but the CDC estimates that lifetime medical costs for each case of AIDS are over $379,000.

Activists typically look to the government for extra money. But in Massachusetts, everyone is supposed to be shifting money to prevention, to keep people from getting sick and cut health care spending. So would hospitals, doctors and health insurers join forces to help end HIV and AIDS?

“I think the [health insurance] plans would be very willing to work with those stakeholders if it meant that in the end we were going to eradicate that and save a lot of money in the long run,” said Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans. “But there are huge anti-trust considerations about how we would structure that.”

Massachusetts does not have the lowest rate of new HIV cases in the country – that’s Vermont, with only 9 in 2011.

But its rate is low — compare it to Florida, with 5,124. It may not happen tomorrow, but for Massachusetts residents who recall the epidemic’s terrible, tragic peak, the very fact that advocates and officials can now envision the end of AIDS here is breathtaking.

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Sequestration: State Housing Vouchers Now Being Cut

Robert and Johannes speak at the Budget 4 All Rally.

Fight the Cuts: ACT UP’s Robert and Johannes speak at the Budget for All Rally.

 

Alarming Boston Globe report below on Sequestration and state housing cuts. Similar cuts are also occurring elsewhere (Maryland for example). Housing agencies are being forced to reduce their costs or landlords will have to accept reductions in what HUD pays in rent subsidies (the voucher payment standard). Otherwise, tenants with vouchers will have to pay a higher percentage of rent, that is if they don’t loose their vouchers because of the cuts.

ACT UP has received reports that some property management companies are being asked to accept voucher payment standard reductions from HUD of up to 10%. Those who currently pay the lowest rents may see the largest increases in what they are expected to pay to cover the HUD payment standard cuts (Read Year 1 of Sequestration: Fewer Housing Vouchers, Higher Rents, More Homeless). Many families already pay rent in excess of 40% of income. The increase will further pressure them to choose between housing, fuel, or food. This as fuel and food programs are also being cut due to sequestration. AND, sequestration 2.0 arrives in six months which means another round of (8%) budget cuts!

The Globe story also mentions the ongoing fight against Sequestration cuts by the Budget for All Coalition, of which ACT UP is a member.

Federal cuts hit housing programs for the poor

Some state residents denied voucher aid; agencies struggle to limit the damage

By Megan Woolhouse

MAY 26, 2013

Thousands of the state’s poorest residents are losing or being denied federal housing subsidies as a result of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, forcing many to choose between food, rent, medicine — or the streets.

The cuts are pummeling the Section 8 voucher program, which offers assistance to poor individuals and families renting apartments in the open market.

The Boston Housing ­Authority, for example, has stopped ­issuing new vouchers after absorbing $10 million in Section 8 voucher cuts, and by fall it could end subsidies for more than 10 percent of the 11,000 households already receiving vouchers.

“Sequestration has been devastating,” said Lydia Agro, a spokeswoman for the BHA. “We’ve never been in this situation — we’ve never had to cut people off the program.”

Sequestration is the term for sweeping and deep federal spending cuts that were supposed to be so dire they would push lawmakers in Washington to reach a compromise on reducing the federal deficit. It didn’t happen. The cuts went into effect in March, but only in recent weeks has the impact begun to be felt across a broad range of federal programs, including decades-old housing programs designed to help the nation’s most economically vulnerable.

In Massachusetts, and across the country, groups have protested the cutbacks. Earlier this month, Budget for All, a nonprofit coalition of labor, religious, and peace groups, protested outside Government Center, urging the public to contact US senators who are already planning next year’s federal budget, which begins in October. The group advocates for reducing Pentagon spending and a 1 percent tax increase on the rich and corporations.

“Everybody says they hate sequester,” said Lee Farris, one of the rally’s organizers. “So Congress needs to find another way between now and when they pass the budget to replace it with what they should have done in the first place.”

As in Massachusetts, cuts to Section 8 funding are forcing housing programs in many states toreduce the number of vouchers they issue, freeze waiting lists, and face the possibility of having to end subsidies for people already in the program.

The program, begun in the 1970s, offers subsidies to individuals and families who earn no more than 50 percent of the median income in the area they live, though the vast majority earn just 30 percent or less of the median income. In Boston, a family of four with an income of $28,000 a year or less would qualify.

Families with vouchers pay as much as 40 percent of their income toward rent. The program provides a bridge to help many families move out of poverty in a way that helps them avoid the stigma of living in public housing.

India Cox, a single mother living in Mission Hill with her 9-year-old daughter, spent years on the Section 8 waiting list, living in cramped, rundown apartments in unsafe buildings because that was all she could afford. When she recently received a notice that she had been accepted into the Section 8 program, Cox said she felt relieved to finally be able to move and had begun looking for an apartment with a yard or near a park.

But a few weeks later, she received another letter telling her the offer was rescinded because of funding cuts.

“It was snatched away,” said Cox, 29, who works part time taking calls at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “I’m frustrated. I just wanted to live someplace safer with my daughter.”

Housing specialists said it has never been easy to get a Section 8 voucher, which in the best of times could require years on a waiting list. Linda Wood-Boyle, executive director of HomeStart Inc., a nonprofit that helps homeless families obtain vouchers and other services, said the cuts mean more families with children, elderly, and disabled will struggle with unstable living situations, forced to move from place to place, not knowing where they will sleep some nights.

“People will just stay in shelters longer, or be homeless longer, or doubled-up and couch surfing longer,” she said. “It’s always a problem, but it will just be worse now.”

The state Department of Housing and Community Development, which allocates about 20,000 Section 8 vouchers each year, has a waiting list of about 80,000 low-income households, including about 24,000 people with disabilities.

But federal cuts of more than $12 million mean those individuals and families will stay on the waiting list indefinitely. Matthew T. Sheaff, the agency spokesman, said the state has stopped offering vouchers to new candidates as people leave the program.

Sheaff said the agency is tapping its reserves so it does not have to cut off families who are currently receiving subsidies. “It’s important to keep these people housed,” he said.

However, because of sequestration, the state agency is also facing administrative cutbacks totaling $5.7 million. State officials have not yet implemented reductions due to those cuts.

The BHA has also been told to reduce its administrative spending by $4.6 million and its public housing spending by $10.8 million, Agro said. Thirty-three staffers were recently laid off, there is a hiring freeze, and senior staffers must take five unpaid workdays.

Sue Nohl, deputy director of the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, the state’s largest provider of the vouchers from the state Department of Housing and Community Development, said her agency recently had to notify 43 households that had just been accepted into the program that they would not receive vouchers ­after all, due to cutbacks.

Many had been on the waiting list a decade.

The housing partnership’s program offers about 5,700 vouchers to low-income families every year. They expected to have about 120 vouchers become available this year as ­clients move out of the program as their income increases, die, or violate policies and are terminated. Because of the cuts, they anticipate that they will not be able to offer vouchers to any new clients for at least the next year.

What worries Nohl about the cutbacks is that so many of the people receiving vouchers are already living precariously close to homelessness. The families have so little income that many are forced to choose between paying rent, buying food, or receiving medical care.

“These are people who are making choices not about where to go on vacation, but should I eat today and do we have a place to stay tomorrow,” Nohl said.

Ana Bela Mendes of Dorchester, a divorced mother of three, lost her job of 12 years during the recession and became homeless. She cares for a severely disabled 20-year-old daughter and is taking courses at the University of Phoenix so she can eventually become a nurse. She recently learned that a state subsidy, separate from Section 8, that helped her pay the rent for the past two years will end in the fall.

She said she can’t afford her apartment’s market rate rent of $1,600; her monthly income is $1,100 in child support and disability payments. She had hoped she would get a Section 8 voucher to help her pay for a new place to live, but not anymore.

She said she’ll be lucky to find an affordable one-bedroom, and may have to consider moving out of the city and farther away from her daughter’s doctors.

“I have to scramble and figure out what’s next,” Mendes said. “And I still need to finish school.”