If there was any doubt left in our mind (there wasn’t) that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is at the helm of the Trump administration’s sinking ship, the House Republicans’ budget proposal, released yesterday, certainly cleared that up. The “Building a Better America” budget proposal calls for significant cuts to public services while giving major tax handouts to the wealthy. While the budget seems to make cuts across all portfolios, there are three particular ones in which the Chamber is well versed in deregulating: financial reform, the safety net, medical malpractice reforms, and tax reform.
“Building a Better America” assumes adoption of the Financial CHOICE Act, a sweeping Wall Street deregulation bill that the Chamber has been lobbying in support of. The CHOICE Act (or as we like to call it, the “Wrong Choice Act”) would cripple the CFPB, something the Chamber has longed to destroy since it first came to be. What does the Chamber have against the CFPB? Easy. The CFBP works to protect consumers from unsavory and sometimes illegal behavior by the big financial institutions, many of which the Chamber represents. The CHOICE Act also repeals the Volcker Rule, a piece of legislation the Chamber loves to hate. The Volcker Rule ensures that banks refrain from engaging in speculative trading with investors’ money and brings them back to the regular business of banking, which reduces the chance of repeating the 2007 financial crisis. Much like with the rest of the CHOICE Act, the Chamber and the Big Banks are anti-Volcker Rule because it confines Wall Street’s ability to make short term profits that become big bonuses for executives.
Next up, the safety net. The Chamber has a long history of aggressively lobbying against Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The budget proposal would cut funding for Medicare by $487 billion over 10 years, while also cutting Medicaid and other health care programs by $1.5 trillion over the same amount of time. Unlike President Trump, the Chamber has never promised to spare Social Security from cuts. One specific cut to social security that the budget proposes is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), something the Chamber has long tried to reform. The House budget contains $4 billion worth of cuts to social security, and while these cuts may be music to the Chamber’s ears, it is a devastating proposal for the average American.
Republicans would be remiss to pass up the opportunity to make outlandish claims regarding the practice of defensive medicine. The proposal includes “reforms” outlined in the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” a bill the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform lobbied heavily on behalf of. The Chamber and its health care lobby allies assert preposterous estimates on the prevalence of defensive medicine and the costs incurred by it, despite those claims being debunked. The budget seeks to restrict patients’ rights in an effort to do the bidding of the health care lobby, something the Chamber is familiar with.
Lastly, tax reform. The tax reform proposals championed by the Chamber and largely adopted in the proposed House budget are made up of comprehensive tax giveaway to the wealthy and a payback scheme for the Chamber’s big business allies. The Chamber has said before of tax reform that it “will be at the table throughout the process—because anyone who isn’t at the table risks ending up on the menu.” And, based on this budget, they weren’t joking around. The House Republican budget calls for lowering the corporate tax rate and downplays the importance of the tax, given that it “actually raises relatively little revenue.” The Chamber has long championedreducing the tax rate on business income. And while conservative rhetoric may try to push the narrative that taxing corporations raises little revenue, the truth is that the Chamber/Trump/GOP tax reform proposal could cost as much as an estimated $7.8 trillion over ten years, disproportionately benefitting high-income households.
The House budget proposal is nothing more than a Chamber-dreamed windfall for corporations and Wall Street. Building a Better America or Building a Better Corporate America? Based on what we see in this budget blueprint, it is evident which the Chamber has been lobbying for.