When the news broke this weekend that Donald Trump’s pen-wielding sabotage of Obamacare will disproportionately hurt the 30 states that voted for Trump — gee, big surprise — I remembered a recent passage penned by the conservative columnist George Will:
“Trump’s energy, unleavened by intellect and untethered to principle, serves only his sovereign instinct to pander to those who adore him as much as he does. Unshakably smitten, they are impervious to the Everest of evidence that he disdains them as a basket of gullibles. He understands that his unremitting coarseness satisfies their unpolitical agenda of smashing crockery, even though his self-indulgent floundering precludes fulfillment of the promises he flippantly made …”
George Will has always had a florid way with words. Boiled to its essence, his point is beyond dispute. Over and over, Trump sells snake oil — like promising to replace Obamacare with better, cheaper health coverage for all — and over and over the gullibles guzzle it and beg for more.
Will they wise up to his latest con? Don’t bet on it.
Having failed over and over to repeal the Obamacare law (because Trump lacks the skills required of a president to lead legislation through Congress), he decided last Thursday to simply blow up part of the law with his signature, decreeing that forthwith he shall cut off federal money that helps 7 million low- and modest-income people afford a lot of the out-of-pocket costs. Trump’s game is to undo everything that Obama did; those 7 million people — 4 million of whom live in red states — are merely collateral damage.
This federal money compensates the health insurers who are required to give discounts to those struggling millions; without that money, the insurers will be forced to raise their premiums next year — by 20 percent, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. And a least one Republican governor, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, already predicts that Trump’s move “is going to hurt kids. It’s going to hurt families. It’s going to hurt people with mental health issues. It’s going to hurt veterans …. This is going to make it much more difficult for those people out in rural areas and in the urban areas to be able to obtain affordable insurance.”
There’s virtually no public support for Trump’s piecemeal sabotage — in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll earlier this month, 71 percent of Americans said he should do all he can to make Obamacare work better; only 21 percent said he should damage the law (Trump in July: “We’ll just let Obamacare fail”) — but, as always, Trump won’t suffer political damage unless there’s some kind of grassroots revolt in the red states.
In a rational world, voters who feel screwed by their favorite candidate would rise up against that candidate. And it just so happens that nearly 70 percent of the people who’ve benefited from the subsidies that Trump just killed off — the aforementioned four million — reside in the 30 Trump states. Of the top 10 states that benefited from those subsidies, nine are Trump states, led by Florida. Obviously, not all of the adversely affected folks voted for Trump, but he did particularly well (as he’d be the first to tell you) with economically struggling workers in the red states. Obamacare has been a boon for those people in those states. Many voted for Trump while telling themselves that he’d never go after their Obamacare.
Too late! Perhaps Congress will come to the rescue, and enough Republicans will bond with the Democrats to save those subsidies via legislation. Right now, this is slightly more likely than the potential of pigs to fly. A few congressional Republicans are bemoaning Trump’s executive order — Senator Susan Collins says she’s “very disappointed,” and lame duck Pennsylvania congressman Charlie Dent warns that “we, the Republican party, will own this …. This is on us” — but, again, don’t hold your breath that Trump’s base will care. Or that even the Trump fans facing big premium hikes will care. They’re too bedazzled by Trump’s distractions, his plucking of cultural chords (hey, look — fewer football players are taking a knee).
And I know it’s probably considered “elitist” to quote the U.S. Constitution, but, last I checked, the deliberate sabotage of Obamacare is a manifest breach of Article II, which requires that a president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Oh well. Apparently it was wrong to assume that presidential respect for the rule of law was a pre-existing condition.
In other news, Trump has decreed that this is National Character Counts Week. He says that character “is refined by our choices, large and small, and manifested in what we do when we think no one is paying attention.”
Trump to Billy Bush, when he thought no one was recording: “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything …. Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”