Initial reactions to the Senate version of Trumpcare have been overwhelmingly negative. The proposal, drafted behind closed doors, has been described accurately as a giant transfer of money from the poor to the rich. Another assessment viewed it as a fundamental attack on Medicaid, a health safety net for one out of every five Americans.
While the specifics of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bill may not have been totally predictable, the mean-spirited approach certainly was. Everything the Republican majority has attempted for a long time has demonstrated a callous indifference, even hostility, to the poor and disadvantaged in this country and a fawning obsession with shifting still more resources to those few who already have way more than they need.
Why do the most wealthy citizens of the United States need another tax break? As countless studies have shown, the last two decades have yielded a growing concentration of wealth in this country. We are increasingly defined by inequality, two nations not one. The so-called Republican healthcare bill would accelerate and exacerbate those patterns.
Is there any justification for another transfer of wealth to the wealthy? Republicans continue to trot out the claim that the wealthy are job creators, that “supply side” economics–the theory that money will trickle down to the less fortunate–will create dynamic economic growth. This ignores the fact that past efforts have all failed. The massive tax cuts under Ronald Reagan and later George W. Bush led to enormous budget deficits, not to an economic stimulus.
The real explanation is that too many wealthy people are greedy for more and more and Republican lawmakers, who count on a steady flow of campaign contributions, are more than eager to accommodate them. It’s a perverse system that is steadily eroding the foundations of representative democracy.
The other half of the equation, robbing the poor to give to the rich, is equally confounding. Notwithstanding the populist appeal of Donald Trump, Republicans basically don’t like poor people. Wrapping themselves in what they, in an incredible display of arrogance, view as the moral high ground of ending “dependence on government support”, much of the GOP holds anyone who isn’t rich totally responsible for their own problems. If only they had been smart enough to inherit millions of dollars, they could join the club.
Republican mean-spiritedness is not focussed solely on the poor in their newest version of income redistribution masquerading as a healthcare bill. Hostility to any measure that benefits the health of women is a well-established Republican tenet. The Party leaders may bemoan the epidemic of opioid addiction, but this newest proposal will provide less treatment rather than more. That 23 million people will end up without health insurance if their mean-spirited bill is enacted into law really is, similarly, of no concern.
McConnell’s folly, also known as Trumpcare, is far from an isolated example of greed and mean-spiritedness. The attack on environmental laws and regulations is nothing more than a desire to cut the costs of doing business for the Party’s business supporters. Again, it’s about greed, not policy. It’s not really that Trump, Scott Pruitt and others don’t understand or believe in climate science. They just don’t care about it. In a different sense than Al Gore means it, it’s merely an inconvenience easily brushed aside.
Who suffers most from abandonment of the fight against the effects of climate change? In the long run, of course, everyone does. In the short-term, however, poor people who are least able to escape air and water pollution are the first victims. Flint, Michigan is not an isolated example, but a warning of what’s ahead.
You want another example? Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General best known for incredible lapses of memory, is trying to revive and energize the private prison industry. The Obama Administration had taken steps to terminate what has clearly been a horrible experiment focused on profits rather than public safety. While some Republicans have joined in the effort to reform the criminal justice system, Sessions seems focused entirely on making sure the Administration’s political contributors rack up big profits.
What else can we expect from this merry band of plunderers? Selling off National Parks and the natural resources they contain? A “tax reform” bill–piled on top of the tax provisions of the healthcare bill–that strips out any provisions that benefit the middle class in favor of more special breaks for the rich? Shifting of federal funds from public schools to for-profit “educational” businesses? Oops, that’s already happening.
Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress may be evil, but they’re not stupid. I’m sure their aspirations for grabbing still more financial rewards for their backers will include “creative” ideas I haven’t even considered. If many citizens, including those most eager to believe the wildest promises of Trump, suffer as a result, let them eat cake.