Days after the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) the Congressional Budget Office declared if passed as is the bill would strip as many as 23 million Americans of their insurance. Plans to restructure medicaid and medicare are hidden within the bill that would further impact those who don’t lose their insurance, and the bill itself is a handout to the insurance industry the likes of which the American healthcare system has never seen. The Republican Party has long been chomping at the bit to destroy the social safety and the Paul Ryan wing of the party has latched on to Trump as an unexpected champion for their extreme fantasy of American austerity. Schools, social security, and basically all forms of non military spending on are on the chopping block.
Betsy DeVoss and House Republicans have rolled out an ambitious plan to reshape public spending on education, under the guise of “school choice.” On its face school choice is designed to seem as if it’s nothing but giving parents freedom over their tax dollars they should have had in the first place, but in real world impact it’s nothing but a sly shift of resources from public schools to private, parochial, and charter alternatives. If these policy proposals are actualized it would represent a decades long effort from the Republican Party and the DeVoss family specifically to shift education from a public good to a private investment.
Charter schools have long been a veiled attempt at private control of public schools, but Betsy DeVoss and company have decided to take it a step further and instead push for “school choice”. Under this scheme private schools, charter schools, and religious schools all receive the federal funds attached to each student that would normally flow to public schools. Not only does this reduce the quality of public education for millions of students who can’t take advantage of the “freedom” granted by school choice programs. It also allows schools a way to prevent their teachers from unionizing, complying to federal anti-discrimination statutes, and in some cases skirt the separation of education and religious instruction.
Privatizing schools is nothing more than a not so surreptitious way to skirt regulation and create schools in line with Republican ideology.
Privatizing social security has been a goal of Republican elites since Reagan, but was most seriously pursued during the second Bush administration. It was always an unpopular proposal, but that has not stopped the Republican Party from pushing the idea that social security is in a state of disrepair and that collapse is inevitable without significant reform. The truth is a simply increase in the payroll tax which funds social security is more than enough to sure up any problems and keep the program healthy for decades to come. Unfortunately though, despite promising to leave the program alone, the Trump administration and congress see social security as a major obstacle to their tax cut heavy agenda.
Republicans have longed to reform social security, increase the retirement age, and cut back on government support for decades, which is exactly the opposite of what needs to be done to fix the problem. On the opposite end of the Social Security spectrum are people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who have long advocated for increasing the cap on the payroll taxes that fund Social Security. As it stands now people who make $118,500 a year pay in to social security as much as the millionaires in congress, or billionaires like Donald Trump. Upping the payroll tax cap would guarantee more money flowing into the system and by many estimates it would sure up the program for decades amid a Baby Boomer retirement onslaught.
It’s not just education and social security, literally every bit of non defense spending has been faced with proposed cuts. Medicaid and medicare, to PBS and public housing, all of it faces cuts unseen since the Reagan era. While it’s not at all clear the Republican Party is organized enough to actually pass their legislative agenda while congressional majorities allow, it is abundantly clear in their perfect world it would be done already. Unfortunately for them their stress free legislation window is quickly closing, as midterm season is inching ever closer and the president’s popularity dipping lower and lower.
For the time being though the Republican agenda is clear and week by week in the less publicized halls of congress they inch closer and closer to accomplishing it.