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Talking Taxes Over Turkey

This week marks an important milestone for my wife and me – our first time hosting Thanksgiving. We’ll be bringing together three generations of family: our parents and some of their siblings, our siblings, and a growing crew of little ones. There will be good food, lots of laughs and, if my nephews can convince my daughters, some family football.

Thanksgiving used to always be the holiday my mom would host, but she has been slowed down a bit over the last few years due to some health issues. That means we get the pleasure of hosting this year and proving that we are up to the turkey challenge. It also means that this year will include some talk about serious issues. How is mom doing? What kind of help can we provide our parents to keep them supported at home and in their community? Of course, other older family members have emerging issues too. What does my aunt need to do to get her Medicare enrollment straightened out? When should my father-in-law start claiming Social Security?

These conversations, though sometimes hard to have, are usually preferred to topics that are considered taboo for some family gatherings. Especially in this deeply divided and troubling time, the last thing many people want to talk about over our turkey dinner is politics, and even more specifically: taxes. But the reality is that we can’t talk about mom’s long-term care needs, or an aunt’s Medicare, or an Uncle’s Social Security or a grandmother’s Medicaid without acknowledging the impact the current tax debate in Washington would have on the older adults in our lives.

Republicans are, unfortunately, using this holiday season to advance tax proposals that would blow a hole in our federal budget in order to provide tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and large corporations. The Republican tax proposals in the House and Senate add roughly $1.5 trillion dollars to the deficit while actually raising taxes for many middle income families.

Older adults would be particularly harmed by these tax proposals. Provisions in the Senate tax bill that repeal the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate will lead to 13 million people losing health insurance, resulting in higher premiums and cost-sharing for older adults accessing coverage in the private market. Provisions in the House bill eliminate the medical expense deduction that many older adults use to help cover rising health care and long-term care costs.

Perhaps most alarming for older adults, Republicans have made clear that, after passing tax cuts that drive up the deficit, they plan to point to that deficit as a justification to cut Medicaid, Medicare and other programs that help older adults meet their basic needs. It is really a two-step process. Step one is to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations. Step two is to cut programs that older adults and their families rely on.

So if you care about those older adults at your Thanksgiving table, you need to care about these tax proposals. And while caring is good, action is better. Here are three things that you can do this Thanksgiving to protect the older adults in your family:

  1. Talk to your family members about taxes. Educate them about the fact that these bills overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest Americans. Explain how these bills increase the deficit and create pressure to cut popular programs older adults need.
  2. Participate in advocacy efforts with your family. Call 202-224-3121 today and tell your Senators to vote no on this dangerous tax bill. You can also send an email to your Senators here.
  3. Visit Congressional offices. Over recess, visit your Senator’s offices, attend a Town Hall meeting, or participate in a tax plan protest event, and tell them not to cut taxes for the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Print out and bring copies of our fact sheet that outlines the threats to health care for older adults and their families in both the House and Senate bills.

Talking taxes may not be as fun as eating Turkey or playing football, but if Thanksgiving is a time to treasure our family and friends, then it’s also the time to talk about what’s at stake in their lives.

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