Bruell column: The Inflation Reduction Act, and wins for Garfield County
When elected officials have the courage and integrity to prioritize the lives of everyday Americans over the gains of corporations and special interests, they can pass legislation that truly serves the common good.
By demanding that ultra-wealthy corporations and individuals pay their fair share like the rest of us, our leaders can help families save money and face a brighter future — while reducing government spending at the same time.
The Inflation Reduction Act is a great example of legislation that is a win-win for the American people. Let’s look at some of the impacts this act will have specifically for us here in Garfield County.
Our region has some of the highest health care costs in the nation, so savings on health-related expenses are particularly relevant for us. The Inflation Reduction Act will lower the cost of health care premiums for many of us, and lower prescription drug prices and set an annual cap of $2,000 on medication expenses for those on Medicare.
With those 65 and older making up the fastest-growing age group in our county, more and more of our residents will reap the benefits of those Medicare savings.
Of course, protecting our rivers is another huge priority for our region. The Inflation Reduction Act includes $4 billion that can be used by states and local agencies to rent, buy or save water. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., fought hard for this provision of the act because he knows it is a tremendous opportunity to help protect the Colorado River Basin.
The Inflation Reduction Act also includes funding to help lower energy costs and create clean energy jobs in rural communities like ours, including $14 billion for rural clean energy. That includes $10 billion for rural electric cooperatives, and additional funds for rural small businesses, agricultural producers and public power utilities.
This act is the most significant legislation in our history to address the extreme weather caused by climate change. Most recently in our community, this has meant drought leading to dangerous wildfires and extreme mudslides. Addressing the root of this problem requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The clean energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act will result in a reduction of these emissions by about 40% relative to 2005 levels by 2030.
While many people wish that the Inflation Reduction Act had gone further, it is undoubtedly moving our country in the right direction. All of the pieces add up to a win-win for the vast majority of American people, wherever we may live. Republican legislators have misrepresented the act because that’s the only way they can justify their opposition to this historic piece of legislation.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, characterized the Inflation Reduction Act as a “war on seniors” because it cuts Medicare spending. He shamelessly neglected to mention that the projected savings of $265 billion in Medicare costs will be achieved by requiring pharmaceutical companies to stop their practice of price-gouging Medicare — not by cutting any benefits to seniors.
Using her typical fiery rhetoric that has no grounding in reality, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., attacked the act as “armed robbery against Americans” and “reckless spending,” when in fact the bill will more than pay for itself. It will save money for American families and the government, and will even generate revenue, by requiring the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share.
Specifically, corporations making over $1 billion in annual profits will start paying at least 15% in taxes; individuals making over $400,000 a year will have a harder time getting away with cheating on their tax returns; and senior executives and big shareholders of wealthy corporations will have to pay a 1% tax on corporate stock buybacks.
Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., has been credited with the inclusion of this new tax on corporate stock buybacks, which is a maneuver used by executives and shareholders of enormously profitable corporations to get more of that cash into their own pockets. The 1% tax is projected to raise an additional $73 billion in revenue.
Some politicians would like us to believe that we can’t make progress on all the different things we care about — that we have to choose between building stronger safety nets for our seniors or lowering living expenses for all of us; supporting rural economies or reducing greenhouse emissions; creating jobs or protecting our environment. Those arguments are intended to divide us, and simply aren’t true. The Inflation Reduction Act is proof that we can pass legislation that does all of those things … if our elected officials are willing to demand that ultra-wealthy corporations and individuals pay their fair share.
I applaud our federal elected officials, Sens. Bennet and Hickenlooper, who fought hard to make this bill a reality. I hope our local elected officials will capitalize on the many opportunities available to them through this legislation, and bring as many benefits as possible to the people of Garfield County.
Debbie Bruell of Carbondale chairs the Garfield County Democrats and is a past member of the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education.
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