(RNS) — Abraham Lincoln said, “If you want to test a man's character, give him power.”
Sure enough, now that Republicans are in power with majorities in both chambers of Congress, the cabinet and the presidency, the true character of the GOP and its leaders is increasingly clear.
Endowed with the power to actually legislate good, to help families, to secure a brighter future for our children, Republican politicians have chosen greed, racism and hypocrisy rather than “family values” and “pro-life” principles we’ve been hearing about for years.
Political expediency should not trump spiritual principles that call on us, especially now, to leave no one behind. As 1 Corinthians 10:24 reminds us: None of you should be looking out for your own interests, but for the interests of others.
The massive tax package that Republican leaders have been ramming through the House and Senate over the last few weeks is the best example of just how hollow their concern for “life” rings. The proposed bill gives more than a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the rich and corporations, including multinational companies making record profits, such as Apple and Pfizer.
It pays for those cuts with a tax hike on the middle class; cuts to health care for seniors, kids and people with disabilities; and repeal of an Affordable Care Act provision that would leave 13 million more people without insurance. No one escapes harm under this bill except for corporations that will see a permanent 15 percent tax cut and millionaires, who will get more than $5.8 billion in tax breaks by 2027, according to the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation.
To lavish gifts on the rich and corporations while demolishing any chance at a decent life for many other people who need help is cruel. Yet that’s exactly what Republican lawmakers would accomplish if a proposed $1 trillion cut to Medicaid to pay for tax “reform” is enacted. About 1 in 5 Americans are enrolled in Medicaid. Nearly half — 43 percent — of enrollees are children and a disproportionate number of them are Black, Latino and Native American.
In James 2: 15-16, we are challenged: Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
In fact, the Republicans — for all their past rhetoric about families — have proposed policy after policy that hurt children of all ages. The GOP has repeatedly tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even though research shows that when parents lose health care, children are more likely to go without health care. Republicans have also proposed paying for the renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program by cutting health care for adults and seniors in their families.
The House and Senate tax bills also call for changes to the tax code so that immigrant families with low incomes pay for tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. The tax package denies low-income families, immigrant families and mixed-status households with average incomes of only $21,000 a year the child tax credit and the refundable additional child tax credit. That could impact up to 5 million children of tax-paying parents in immigrant families, the majority of whom are actually U.S. citizens. Latino families, who make up about 85 percent of immigrant and mixed-status families who qualify for CTC and ACTC, would be hit the hardest, losing an average of $1,800 or 8.5 percent of their annual income because of this proposal.
Up to 1 million children affected by the loss of CTC and ACTC are young "Dreamers" without Social Security numbers. They already are facing tremendous hardships because President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, leaving more than 800,000 young people at risk for deportation and incarceration.
When it comes to priorities and values, it’s clear where President Trump and Republicans stand. It’s not with our families, and definitely not with our nation’s children.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what politicians in power say about “family” or “life.” What matters is what they do with that power.
Republicans plan to grant the wealthiest 1 percent and multinational corporations a massive tax giveaway and make our children and families pay for it. That reveals their true character.
(Bishop Dwayne Royster is the political director of PICO National Network, the largest grass-roots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)