Thursday, May 4, 2017

Benefits Back On The Chopping Block: Now Is Not The Time To Sit On The Fence

<"The ice age is comin', the sun's zooming in:
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin...>

They've done it again. The Republican ideologues in the House of Representatives...who couldn't agree on the finer details of screwing the poor (and their low- to moderate-income peers)...jump-started their innocuously-titled monstrosity, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), in all its ghasty glory, by a 217-213 vote today. As expected, the measure passed along party lines, with 29 Republicans voting no, and no Democrats voting for it. The political football back to the Senate, where the math hasn't changed: you still need 60 votes, including eight Democrats, to actually pass this so-called piece of legislation. We'll see how well that scenario plays out.

However, I'm not going to spend time rehashing the ugliness of the AHCA, which is almost stupefying, in terms of who it rewards (the already insanely wealthy) and punishes (seniors,  via the "age tax" that insurers imposed before the Affordable Care Act (ACA); the poor, via the attempted conversion of Medicaid into a block grant program, or the imposition of high-risk pools, which failed spectacularly in states that tried them iduring the pre-ACA era). You can read the links below to see how the screw will bore through your back. Trust me -- no matter who does the analyzing, it's not a pretty picture.

Nor will I revisit the familiar pro and con arguments about the ACA's impact on the average person. Obviously, major issues that need correcting -- starting with the sky-high deductibles ($6,000 and $12,000? who were they kidding?), and double-digit rate increases that stoked resentments against the law. Now that people realize what they might lose, support for the ACA has shot up. If the Democrats ever regain majority control, they'll need to address these issues -- but that's another discussion for another day. If the law vanishes, that discussion is academic.

There's something downright surreal about the House's race to strip so many millions of what coverage they've gained since the ACA passed in 2010. Somewhere in his special little air-conditioned room in Hell, the late, discredited East German Communist leader, Erich Honecker, is high-fiving his equally grimy colleagues, as they observe the anticsnow going on in Washington: "Ja, ja, see? I told you so! I told you so!"

No, today, as we hold our breath, once again -- I'm going to focus on the people who, even now, after all the picketing and protesting, keep saying things like, Give him (Trump) a chance." "He doesn't really mean what he says." "He probably won't finish out his term." "It doesn't matter, and it doesn't affect me." "Whatever he does, we can overturn it at some other time." To all of those excuses, I offer a simple rejoinder: Now is not the time to sit on the fence, and here's why.

<I think we've all seen this movie before...>

Maybe you voted for Trump, thinking he really is some kind of  populist, waiting to tap his inner Bernie Sanders? There's a classic saying in business that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Granted, Herr Trump zigzags constantly, but the few proposals that he's tried to advance --the AHCA, the massive social services cuts envisioned in his so-called budget, or the proposed tax cuts that would, effectively, soak the rich dreams to unimaginable new heights -- hail from the ultra-right playbook. Yet he's trying to jam all these things down our throats,with an approval rating that hovers somewhere in the low 40s. I don't feel like keeping quiet as he rolls out these evil science experiments. And neither should anybody else.

Maybe you take Trump for the latest clown who'll limp out of Washington with his tail between his legs, without any substantive achievements? Perhaps, but he can still wreak plenty of havoc by default. The best chance to check him  -- the 2018 midterm elections -- is a gut-wrenching 18 months away. Unless we lay the groundwork now, the Democratic dreams of recapturing one (or both) Houses of Congress will amount to no more than that. Ask the rivals who watched Trump stumble in Iowa last year, only to see him walk off with the nomination. Ask them what happens when you don't take a looming threat seriously.

Maybe you're unwilling to stand up, because Trump won't survive the impeachment process, and you somehow won't be affected? Impeaching Trump leaves us vulnerable to his equally batshit crazy VP, Mike Pence -- the same "compassionate conservative" who also presided over massive public health cuts as governor of Indiana. Putting someone like him at the top of the pyramid doesn't buy us relief; protest does, at least some degree, if only because it serve as a rude interruption of Trump's and Pence's narcissisitic fantasies ("Who cares what the media claims? They love me!"). And don't think you'll slip under the radar somehow. How many employers will continue offering the same kind of insurance -- or, for that matter, any kind of insurance -- if the AHCA actually becomes law?

Maybe you're counting on someone else to speak their mind, because you think the damage can be undone later? That scenario only becomes probable if Democrats capture the U.S. House and Senate, which nobody in their wildest dreams is floating right now (Most of the smart money is focused on regaining the former body). Part of the reason we're in this fix is because everybody waited for someone else to do the right thing. The progressives waited for the Democratic establishment to hear them out. Didn't happen. The voters returned the House to GOP control, hoping for relief from ACA premiums. Didn't happen. Trump's rivals, then Hillary Clinton, waited for him to stumble, and commit political hara-kiri. DIdn't happen. 

See where that logic gets us? No matter what rationalization you choose, the result is the same, as the British abolitionist William Wilberforce once observed: "Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know." No matter what happens with the House vote today, whatever protesting we do must continue, and we must continue to drive home the message. Now is not the time to sit on the fence. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Hurry, Before
They Yank The Coverage Rug For Good):
Center For American Progress:
The Upton Amendment To The ACA
Repeal Bill Will Have Almost No Effect:

Huffington Post: Jimmy Kimmel's Humanity
Underscores GOP's Heartlessness Toward The Poor:

Los Angeles Times: All The Horrific Details
Of The GOP's New Obamacare Bill: A Handy Guide:

Los Angeles Times: Seven Ways
The GOP's Obamacare Repeal Bill
Would Wreck Your Healthcare:

Los Angeles Times: The GOP Isn't Replacing
All Of Obamacare -- Just the Parts That Work:

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