Kevin McCarthy has a keen new idea about what he thinks he can get out of Democrats in Congress in exchange for Republicans authorizing the government to pay the trillions in debt that Donald Trump racked up in his four years in office.

In exchange for lifting the so-called debt ceiling, McCarthy wants Biden and congressional Democrats to throw millions of families off food stamps (SNAP) and end even the possibility of any help to low-income young people unable to pay off student loans.

He claims this is because the federal government can’t afford to help out students or hungry Americans. Nonetheless, his caucus is also pushing a new $1.8 trillion cut to the already-hobbled estate tax, paid exclusively by “lucky sperm club” children of the morbidly rich when they inherit fortunes they didn’t lift a finger to create.

Ironically, this proposal came out the same week that The Journal of the American Medical Association published a new study finding that poverty is the fourth largest killer of Americans.

And by poverty, they are not just talking about the profoundly poor or homeless: for the purposes of this study they defined poverty as everybody living on less than the 50 percent median of income in the nation.

The study was unambiguous, noting:

“Current poverty was associated with greater mortality than major causes, such as accidents, lower respiratory diseases, and stroke. In 2019, current poverty was also associated with greater mortality than many far more visible causes—10 times as many deaths as homicide, 4.7 times as many deaths as firearms, 3.9 times as many deaths as suicide, and 2.6 times as many deaths as drug overdose.”

The outlook for people who’ve spent at least the past 10 years living below the U.S. median income level is even more grim. The researchers refer to this as “cumulative poverty”:

“Cumulative poverty was associated with approximately 60% greater mortality than current poverty. Hence, cumulative poverty was associated with greater mortality than even obesity and dementia. Heart disease, cancer, and smoking were the only causes or risks with greater mortality than cumulative poverty.”

Concluding that “poverty should be considered a major risk factor for death in the U.S.,” the researchers noted that the situation is probably even worse than what they were able to easily measure:

“[O]ne limitation of this study is that our estimates may be conservative about the number of deaths associated with poverty.”

You’d think that discovering over a quarter-million Americans every year die from current poverty, and an additional 406,000 die every year from long-term or “cumulative” poverty, would move the GOP.

After all, they control the poorest states in the nation, so this hits their constituents harder than it does the electorate of Democratic politicians. This hits right smack in the middle of where Republican politicians live.

But ever since five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court first legalized political bribery in 1976 and 1978, paving the way for the Reagan Revolution, the GOP has abandoned Eisenhower’s embrace of unionization and anti-poverty programs to instead suck up to the morbidly rich and the corporations they control.

Just in the past six years, Republicans have:

  • Repeatedly fought efforts to raise the $7.25 minimum wage (which would be over $15 if inflation-adjusted and over $25 if adjusted for worker productivity gains).
  • Blocked passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would give workers the right to join a union by simply signing a card, all while putting forward new legislation to block gig workers from unionizing.
  • Cut funding for school lunches by about 40 percent.
  • Refused to extend the Child Tax Credit, which lifted millions of families with kids out of poverty during the pandemic.
  • Denied healthcare to low-incoming working families in almost a dozen GOP-controlled states refusing to expand Medicaid.
  • Sued the Biden administration all the way to the Supreme Court to stop Democrats’ efforts to reduce the burden of student debt by a paltry $10,000.
  • Responded to the slaughter of schoolchildren in Tennessee by proposing legislation making it impossible for grieving parents to sue gun manufacturers and sellers.
  • Challenged legislative efforts by Democrats to slow down climate change by citing bullshit phony science promoted by the fossil fuel industry and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
  • Demanded cuts in social security and propose raising the retirement age to 70 for people currently under 50.
  • Supported the ongoing privatization of Medicare through George W. Bush’s corrupt Medicare Advantage private insurance scam.

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan expanded child tax credits and access to Medicaid in 2021, lifting an estimated 12 million people, including 5.6 million children, out of poverty. As Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) economists noted:

“[T]he Rescue Plan may turn out to be the most effective single piece of legislation for reducing annual poverty since 1935.”

When Republicans refused to go along with an extension of the program last year, however, childhood and general poverty both shot back up, proving that poverty in America isn’t some mystical or even natural force, but a policy choice embraced by the GOP.

When confronted with the option of cutting or even ending poverty in America (and the homelessness and crime attendant to it) or adding trillions to the money bins of the morbidly rich, Republicans choose the latter every time.

Biden’s policies brought Trump’s 14.7 percent unemployment rate all the way down to 3.6 percent, lifting millions of families out of poverty. Now, however, Trump appointee and lifelong Republican Jerome Powell has dedicated his efforts at the Fed to jacking unemployment back up (while doing nothing at all about out-of-control corporate price gouging) just in time for the 2024 election.

As Senator Ron Wyden said:

“Republicans manufactured this [debt ceiling] crisis, and Speaker McCarthy’s proposal to get out of it would destroy jobs, worsen healthcare, increase hunger, hurt the climate, and make millions of American families poorer.”

The so-called “party of life” does not, it turns out, care at all about actual human life unless it has a net worth over a half billion dollars.

Gregory E. Clifford, Susan Montgomery, Vitalii Pixels, Joseph Sohm, and J. Scott Applewhite (AP)

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