THE PRICE OF WINNING IN TRUMP’S AMERICA
The June 21st Iowa Rally
We are winning, we are taking our country back, we will make America great again.
I am paraphrasing the President. As he spoke, a chill went down my spine and filled me with dread and anxiety. There was nothing new in what Trump said, it was a variation of his usual themes and message — in fact, there is never any variation in the substance of what Donald Trump says. His message is profoundly simplistic, that is a major part of its appeal.
But this time the words sound more sinister, at least to me. His rally came a day after the GOP victory in a special election in Georgie to fill the House seat vacated by Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, an election that ultimately was the most expensive in House history. Both parties approached that election as if they were fighting over a small expanse of land in the midst of a war. Yes, the contested territory was extremely modest, but both sides viewed it is a last stand of sorts. Will America reject the extremes of Trump and the Congressional GOP, or will the country reverse the damage done in electing Donald Trump President? While the George GOP candidate made very few references to the President, there was no doubt that the election served as a sort of referendum on the current administration.
The GOP candidate won, and in the eyes of the President, he won. I don’t mention the winner’s name because it is irrelevant — this election was fundamentally about competing views of government. The win energized the President and the GOP and distracted the country from the nagging investigation and congressional hearings over potential Russian interference in the 2016 election, and possible obstruction of justice by the President himself. The President won, and he chose to replenish his thirst for attention and validation by appearing in front of an Iowa crowd, people whose love was assured.
We are winning, we are taking our country back, we will make America great again. These words are unsettling for a whole host of reasons but on this day they feel menacing. After over 150 days of the Trump presidency we have seen the lengths to which he his administration. uses the office to promote the interests of the wealthy and ignore the needs of those who failed to realize the American dream of amassing immense fortunes. The President said that he did not want poor people in his cabinet, by implication, such people are losers. He wants winners, and nothing says winning better than being a billionaire. How is the President defining “poor?” He didn’t elaborate. But judging from the extreme combined wealth of his cabinet it would appear that most who are solidly middle class would fail to make the grade.
Donald Trump has used the White House to extend the sales pitch he made in recruiting people to enroll in Trump University. He made that clear in his remarks in Iowa. The advantage of hiring Goldman Sacks leaders is that they made billions of dollars over the years. Implicit in Trump’s comments is the notion that if these people could make themselves and their investors wealthy, the can do the same for America. That is the message the President peddles to the rural voters in Iowa while he advances policies that increase the wealth of people like his cabinet members, on the backs of the very voters he is recruiting. It is not clear what is worst, the mendacity of the ploy or the fact that it has worked so well. Dispute having to pay millions of dollars to settle the claims of people bilked by Trump U, the President has somehow seamlessly transitioned to using the same tactics to entice millions of voters to act against their own interests. Senator Marco Rubio was right when he said during the primaries that Donald Trump is a huckster. It is unfortunate that even Rubio seems to have forgotten his own warnings in the interests of advancing the GOP extremist agenda.
The GOP Affordable Care Act Repeal & Replace
A day after the President’s speech the GOP Senate leaders finally unveiled the Senate Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) repeal law. Make no mistake, the GOP plan does not replace the ACA, it essentially repeals it. The proposed legislation significantly reduces medicare, eliminates the mandate, and cuts taxes for the wealthy. While over 23 million Americans will lose coverage under this plan, we can rest assured that the ultra wealthy will be spared the burden of unnecessary taxation. When the wealthy benefits, we all benefit. That is not fair of me, neither the administration nor the GOP congress has ever expressly suggested that we all benefit from tax cuts for the wealthy. They have simply refused to provide any justification whatsoever for cutting essential care for the poor, middle class, elderly and military in the interests of providing tax cuts for the super rich.
Usually Congress is reluctant to tackle issues opposed by a large majority of American voters. Yet when it comes to the ACA, the Congressional GOP has pushed ahead without regard to the wishes and interests of the majority of voters. Mr. Trump and the GOP appears to have adopted a “let them eat cake” attitude. Yes, there is currently an opioid epidemic in this country that has resulted in an unconscionable rise in overdose deaths. Entire families and communities are hurting as a result of this scourge — a disproportionate number in the states and districts that have historically voted solidly republican. No matter, increased prosecutions and jail time will fix the problem. Yes, defunding planned parenthood and other essential care will result in increased unwanted pregnancies and risks to the health of millions of women in this country. No worries, with drive and initiative a small percentage of these women can prosper. The failure of the rests is indicative of the fact that they do not belong in the gene pool. Yes, reduced funding for nursing homes will result in decreased care for the elderly and chronically ill, and the lost of jobs for the people providing care to these communities. No matter, millionaires and billionaires throughout the country will have more funds to spend on the care of their own family members. Any care facilities financed by these groups will be the best money can buy. Those centers will act as an incentive for others to become outrageously wealthy so that they can properly place family members in need. For those who fail to make the grade, the American tax payers should not be forced to foot the bill for lack of initiative and foresight.
Every state in the Union requires emergency facilities to provide essential life saving care. No reason to rationally manage such care by increasing less expensive preventative care. The Federal tax payers need not worry about such matters, the costs for this inefficient system will be borne by the states — most of which cannot sufficiently afford the burdens already on books. A continuation of the “let them eat cake” theme.
In short, the Congressional GOP repeal of the ACA will inflict extraordinary damage upon a large percentage of citizens and every state in the country. Now some will say that the damage was caused by the fact that the ACA should have never been passed in the first place. Some do have a principled view of government that rejects federal involvement in health care. My only response to such people is that it is both unconscionable and inefficient to take that position. It is unconscionable that the wealthiest country in the world would turn a blind eye to not only our most needy, but to the large number of Americans in the middle for whom health care costs have become an extraordinary burden. The view is also economically inefficient insofar as the best.
Why Trump’s Speech Caused Me Discomfort
All of the above is sufficient reason to feel some measure of discomfort about both Trump’s comments and the events of this week, but they are not the reason for my initial discomfort which flowed from the optics of the President standing in front of a sea of people completely lacking in diversity speaking about “taking back our country,” and “we will make America great again. The President spoke of a solar panel wall, separating the US from Mexico. He spoke about legislation precluding immigrants from taking advantage of the nation’s welfare system until after five years of residency — despite the fact that such legislation already exists. He spoke about not wanting poor people to run the country. When one speaks of “taking back” a country and thus “mak[ing] America great again” everyone should take pause and wonder about the message being conveyed. The message has been consistent — it started during his first press conference as a candidate when he spoke about Mexico not sending its good people — the message is that a certain segment of the population is reclaiming the country from all of the “others” — particularly the brown ones (of every shade). The President wants to make America great again — he has never identified the era that he feels represented the countries former greatness, but it is hard to imagine that Trump includes the years after the civil rights era and repeal of discriminatory immigration laws and policies.