In late May, Sen. John Thune wrote a column that was titled “Working for America” (Press & Dakotan, May 28) in which he detailed what the Republican led Senate has been doing to make things better for us. When I read that piece, I was surprised (maybe I shouldn’t have been) at the distortions in things he listed and I was distressed by the things he omitted. Here is a point by point discussion of Senator Thune’s message.
After an introductory paragraph where Sen. Thune says, “Republicans in Congress are committed to making life better for Americans” and that they have made great strides during the last two years, he touts the tax cut passed in 2017. He says the cuts were to address the “historically slow economic recovery from the Great Recession” and to help struggling Americans.
Even if you discount the FACT that the economy has been growing steadily since 2010 when President Obama saved us from an economic collapse, there is little evidence to support the claim that the tax cuts have had much impact on the economy. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reports gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 2.9% in 2018 which was about what was projected by the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) in 2017 before the tax cut. More importantly, the tax cuts came nowhere close to paying for themselves. As a result of the tax cut, the deficit has ballooned and the federal debt is nearing $21 trillion. Sen. Thune used to be a “deficit hawk” even introducing legislation in 2010 to address deficits. What has changed?
The benefit of the tax cut went mostly to the wealthiest Americans, providing little help for the vast majority of us. According to the Tax Policy Center, 60% of the total tax savings went to the top 20% of earners, while the top 1% received nearly 17% of the total benefit. That’s an average tax cut of more than $30,000 for the richest 1% of Americans, without factoring in the law’s huge cut to corporate taxes, which disproportionately benefit the wealthy households that own the most stock. Senator Thune should know that most Americans are not bothered by paying too much tax, they are bothered by a tax cut that taxes corporations and the wealthy too little.
In spite of the FACT that job growth has been steady since 2010 with the Trump numbers being about the same as the Obama numbers, Sen. Thune implies the tax cuts have not only increased job creation, but also have increased wages. Yes wages have gone up, but not significantly and rising health costs and inflation have wiped out most, if not all, of any benefit to ordinary workers. The top 1% on the other hand have benefited significantly.
In his editorial, Sen. Thune goes on to list several health care accomplishments. These too are overstated and do not reflect the actual Republican effort to get rid of the Affordable Care Act which would deprive millions of Americans access to affordable health care.
Sen. Thune touts the extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but he fails to mention that President Trump proposed a more than $7 billion cut to the program in May of 2018 after the extension was approved.
Sen. Thune talks about the expanded access to experimental treatments for terminally ill patients while neglecting to note there are already “compassionate use” laws that allow this and that 95% of new treatments evaluated by the FDA don’t work or have risks that outweigh their benefits. Patients who take these treatments on an ‘experimental’ basis may suffer pointlessly.
Sen. Thune goes on to say that the Republican Senate is working on legislation to promote clean energy, to protect our environment, to lower health care costs, to address the high cost of education and to support farmers and ranchers. This, while the President he supports has called for increased coal use and pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, has done everything he can to remove health care provided by the Affordable Care Act, has attempted to take money from educational Pell grants to fund his border wall and has implemented tariffs that have devastated our farmers in South Dakota. Does Senator Thune stand up to the President on any of these issues?
While I agree it is important for our federal government to address healthcare issues, education, retirement costs, environmental issues, economic issues and a whole host of other issues, it is not clear the Republican controlled Senate that Sen. Thune helps lead is actually doing any of this. Rather, they appear to be a rubber stamp for anything President Trump says or does. Worse, the Republican Senate appears to be abdicating their duty to reign in a corrupt president who not only ignores the rule of law that is a bedrock of our country, but also sides with dictators and strong men on the international level while ignoring our allies.
It’s time for Sen. Thune to put his responsibility to our country above his party loyalty.
Jay Williams of Yankton was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016 and lost to Sen. Thune in the general election.