By Michell McIntyre, Public Citizen
Thanksgiving is the official day to be grateful – to count one’s blessings from the year and reflect on how to make things better for the next one. Regrettably, this year Congress has given us little to be thankful for with the ongoing battles for health care, attempts to give tax handouts for the wealthy, and inserting dangerous poison pill riders into budget bills, intending to strip important protections from working Americans.
But, the programs that safeguard our lives are another story all together. Showcasing of the best of America, our national government programs show our American values at work: we believe that people should not be left to starve and that communities devastated by disasters – both natural and manmade – should not be left to fend for themselves. We believe that everyone should have access to affordable education and healthcare. We are thankful for the government agencies that work to right these wrongs, and we believe we must fight to protect them and the values they exemplify.
Unfortunately, corporate lobbyists, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other special interests are attempting to hamstring essential government programs and protections that serve millions of American children, adults and seniors. These powerful pro-corporate voices are working to convince some members of Congress to include both funding cuts to fundamental programs and an avalanche of treacherous poison pill riders in the federal budget. These funding cuts and poison pill riders attack some of the government protections at the very heart of our society.
Throughout the budget and appropriations season, we have witnessed countless attacks on Medicare and Medicaid funding, the attempted rollback of women’s health care and Congress letting the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expire, a program that allows 9 million kids to get health insurance. The Senate’s version of the tax plan includes a provision that would overturn a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which would lead to 13 million more Americans being uninsured.
Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) safeguard against Americans starving in the streets and children going to sleep with empty bellies. Funding for these essential programs is threated by the draconian budget proposal and tax cuts for the wealthy that Republicans in Congress have proposed.
Employment and Worker Rights
The Trump budget proposal and Republicans’ attacks on health care include cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is designed primarily to protect workers who become injured or disabled, and it currently serves nearly 9 million American workers. In addition, worker health and safety is being undermined by Republican attacks on the silica rule. Silica dust causes renal disease, silicosis, lung cancer and other terrible illnesses in workers exposed to it. Poison pill riders in the budget bills also include various provisions that would prevent the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from enforcing basic labor law protections.
The Trump and Republican budget proposals and riders have targeted public education – both K-12 and higher education. Policy changes and funds have been proposed to strip public schools of much needed dollars and instead fund voucher schemes that leave public schools in the dust. Additional funding cuts would slash millions from career and technical education, adult basic literacy instruction, and child care for low-income parents attending college. One of the many poison pill riders being considered would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from enforcing the Gainful Employment rule, which would save students and taxpayers millions of dollars in student loans from predatory for-profit ‘schools.’
When disasters strike, we must help communities get back on track. And there has been no shortage of disasters this year. Destruction from the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and California, and the three major hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands all need sufficient disaster relief funding – but they may not get it. In addition to underfunding disaster relief, the White House is looking to offset the relief with cuts to domestic programs, while at the same time pushing for tax giveaways to the extremely wealthy.
This Thanksgiving, we should all be thankful that We the People came together to stop the one-sided healthcare legislation that would have taken away hard won health benefits from the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Unfortunately our work is not done, with the Senate attempting to use tax legislation to pass a sneaky repeal of Obamacare.
American traditions aren’t just about turkey and stuffing, they’re about protecting families, consumers, and workers. So, this Thanksgiving we hope you’re also grateful for the services and safeguards that keep our communities whole – and that you’re ready to fight to defend them!