Friday, March 29, 2019

Here we go again

Stop me if you've heard this one ...

Donald Trump said in an interview with the Washington Post that his health care plan to replace Obamacare was nearly complete. It will be a great plan—both better and cheaper than Obamacare. And every child will get a pony.

Everybody will get great coverage: "We’re going to have insurance for everybody," Trump said. Everybody! "There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us." Excellent.

The insurance will be "much" simpler, "much" less expensive, and "much" better. Because when Republicans do health insurance, better and less expensive no longer pull in opposite directions. Consumers will see "lower numbers, much lower deductibles." Trump said he wants "to be able to take care of people," and that everybody will be "beautifully covered." Even though that might sound like single payer, Trump said that's not what he's advocating.

This remarkable plan is almost ready to go. "It’s very much formulated down to the final strokes," Trump said. "We haven’t put it in quite yet but we’re going to be doing it soon."

But Republican legislators who would have to deliver on Trump's promises are plenty worried. They know that no such plan exists, even though they've had many, many years to be working on one. They can do repeal, but replacement is another matter entirely. Replacement along the lines of Trump's promises is a pipe dream.

All this was from January 2017, shortly before Trump's inauguration.

Now we're hearing it again. At the president's insistence, the Trump Justice Department has said not only will it not defend the Affordable Care Act in court, but also that the entire law should be invalidated. A judge in Texas has ruled that the law is unconstitutional now that the individual mandate has been removed—by Republicans, you will recall. The Justice Department reluctantly agrees. I say "reluctantly" because the attorney general and the HHS secretary are opposed to invalidating the ACA, but Trump and Mick Mulvaney overruled them.

Invalidation of the Affordable Care Act will require action by higher courts, of course. Trump says not to worry about its demise. In fact, he wants the courts to sweep the whole thing away.

When that happens, says the president, Republicans will be ready with their own plan. Of course they will. They could take that great plan from January 2017 off the shelf. Not the one they eventually went with, but the beautiful plan of Trump's imagination.

Trump now says he wants the GOP to be "the party of health care." Just as at the beginning of Trump's presidency, congressional Republicans are bewildered. Bewildered because they're not working on health care at all, and because their previous attempts have not been salutary.

It was obvious in January 2017 that Trump had no idea what he was talking about as he was making his grandiose promises. A month later he allowed that "nobody knew health care could be so complicated." In fact, just about everybody but Trump knew. For some unexplained reason Trump didn't get it that Republicans never wanted to provide great health care to everybody. Had they wanted to, they certainly did not know how. They just wanted to repeal Obamacare.

They got their best chance in mid-2017, under united Republican rule. In May of that year, Republican lawmakers celebrated in the White House Rose Garden after the House voted very narrowly to repeal the ACA. Trump gushed that the House bill was "incredibly well crafted" and a "great plan," even as it was projected to cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance. Later Trump said the House bill was "mean, mean, mean," and encouraged the Senate to pass a bill that was "more generous." As usual, the clueless president was finding things out on the fly. And as usual, Republican legislators weren't interested in being "generous."

The Senate bill was an ugly duckling birthed in turmoil: a so-called "skinny repeal" that would have left large portions of the ACA intact and required difficult negotiations with the House. All this floundering ultimately ended with John McCain's iconic "thumbs down" on the Senate floor, which derailed Republican efforts until they were able to repeal the individual mandate as part the 2017 tax bill later that fall. The tax bill was itself passed without any Democratic support under budget reconciliation rules, and without a single committee hearing.

Despite this messy history, Trump has doubled down, without consultation with Republican legislators, and once again to their great consternation. In the 2018 midterms Democrats retook the House with a gain of 40 seats, in large part thanks to concerns of the electorate over healthcare. So naturally Trump wants to touch that hot stove again. Doing so could be a useful test.

Useful because these latest developments might yield a strong clue about the enduring gullibility (or not) of the American electorate, and its insensate susceptibility to repetitious nonsensical propaganda. Fool me—how many times? Will we keep falling for the same old scam, over and over? The midterm results suggest we might not.

In February 2017, Trump said: "We have a plan that I think is going to be fantastic. It's going to be released fairly soon. I think it's going to be something special ... I think you're going to like what you hear." At the time he was freelancing, making things up without any understanding, just like now.  There was no such plan. And nobody liked what they heard.

Here we go again? Let's.

Copyright (C) 2019 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved

The latest from Does It Hurt To Think? is here.


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