Let Us Eat Cake

Terry H. Schwadron

Much as I dislike and disagree with Team Trump policies on most issues, it seems, what makes me angry is a seeming scorn for the effects of those policies on real people who do not fit into the political conservative’s idealized view of how people live.

What do they make of a finding that the Senate health bill will drop health insurance for 22 million people (and can’t seem to pass)? That’s silly, they denounce the estimate, not worry about the effects. What do they make of people losing food stamps? Easy, they should get a job. What do they make of a growing record of police shootings involving unarmed black citizens? They must have been doing something threatening.

They never quite say so outright, but they seem to want a world where Mom and Dad have a couple of kids, live in small cities in the Midwest, are content working for old industries that never quite pay enough. No one is gay or has burdensome student loans or needs food stamps or has opiate abuse problems or even cancer unless they are covered by employer-paid health insurance. David Brooks, New York Times right-of-center columnist, says Republicans have an iron-cast view of small government, but no American vision.

I disagree: They do. It is a world led by businesses who replace government with marketplace solutions that dictate our choices if we are not rich enough to direct those companies. From our government, there is a let-them-eat-cake attitude that comes through day after day.

Whether the issue concerns access to health care, employment training, education or environmental regulation, there is a clear pattern in the White House to cherry pick special cases they find agreeable and to disdain common-sense evaluation of how their words affect most individuals.

Over the weekend, Kellyanne Conway faced a sharp exchange with an ABC interviewer who asked about how the White House balanced proposed Medicaid cuts with requests to add “heart” to the health care bill. She defended the proposals as slowing growth rather than cutting Medicaid, adding, “Obamacare took Medicaid, which was designed to help the poor, the needy, the sick, disabled, also children and pregnant women, it took it and went way above the poverty line to many able-bodied Americans who. . . should at least see if there are other options for them.” She added: “If they are able-bodied and they want to work, then they’ll have employer-sponsored benefits like you and I do.”

Conway skipped or does not know that 80 percent of non-elderly adults on Medicaid are in families where someone works and 60 percent have jobs, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. She does not seem to understand, or ignores, the fact that many low-paying, temporary and part-time jobs do not offer employer-paid health insurance. Or, for that matter, that the proposed changes ease rules for employers altogether.

It follows then that the the response to hearing that the Senate bill will put 22 million out of health insurance is meant somehow to chastise those who don’t find employer-paid benefits.

The same reason runs through the announcements about jobs, apprenticeships, job training and other social services areas. The official explanation is that it is the individual’s fault; there never seems to be an understanding that there is something fundamentally different about growing up in central cities than in the suburbs, that institutional racism plays an important role, that there is actual poverty and hunger in this country.

What I do know is that the job opportunities that Team Trump wants to bring to Indiana and Michigan do not come to Harlem and South Chicago, that health care bills that offer tax credits as subsidies will not help those who do not earn enough to buy health insurance. It is difficult to find positive references to “Donald Trump” and “poverty” policies; instead, searching just leads to lists of budget assertions that antipoverty programs do not work.

Housing, health, education are the tools to end poverty. I hear little that aims to help these inner-city populations or white rural poverty. Opiates and drugs come up as targets for more law enforcement and prison sentences, not as opportunities for the President to help.

On national security, there is little outreach to Muslim communities to help build trust and programs aimed at discouraging affinity for overseas terrorist groups. Instead, there is tough talk about undocumented immigrants, there are anti-Muslim challenges and rampant growth of alt-right, white supremacist groups.

I do know is that artists, writers, dancers, musicians and others in the gig economy have insurance today that they did not have before Obamacare. Rather than “heart,” again Conway’s words are a challenge to individuals to get themselves into better-paying jobs.

It feels as if this trend is gaining strength, with disdain growing for anyone with a dissenting voice.

We have to do better.

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