“Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone,” President Trump announced during a Monday Cabinet meeting. “You shouldn’t even mention it; it’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.”
Hmmm. Apparently, all that talk of “repeal and replace” from our GOP-run Congress turned out to be unnecessary. With a few strokes of the mighty executive pen, Trump claims to have done what the Constitution says he cannot do, which is to single-handedly destroy a major legislative program that had been approved by majorities in both houses of Congress and then signed into law by his predecessor. Using every means available to him as president — and maybe some that aren’t — Trump is ensuring that the program helps as few Americans as possible, at as high a cost as possible to taxpayers, in hopes that by inflicting a lot of pain he can destroy the program’s growing popularity.
And who will this pain be inflicted upon? It won’t be him. It won’t be any of his wealthy friends. But sick people are going to lose coverage as a result of his actions. Costs for some in the middle class will soar and inevitably, human lives will be lost. The damage will be particularly severe in those states that gave Trump his electoral college victory.
Of course, our president doesn’t seem to care much about such “collateral damage.” Basically, he has taken the American health-insurance system as his hostage and is threatening to do it great harm unless he gets his way. And if you were hard-hearted enough, and blind enough, you could argue that there’s some sort of larger strategy behind that seeming madness. You could claim, as some attempt to do, that Trump is doing all this as as a means of getting what he wants.
But what exactly does he want? That’s the question that reveals the true depth of cynicism at work here.
Trump has taken a hostage with no real idea of what ransom he wants in return. He has no policy goal that he wants to achieve; there is no “Trumpcare” that he is attempting to implement. For seven long years, the Republicans have been promising to repeal and replace Obamacare, while doing none of the hard, thoughtful work that creating a replacement would require. For more than two years now, Trump himself has been promising the American people that he would create a health-care system that would provide better insurance at lower cost to more people, yet he and his administration have offered up nothing in the form of a plan or a bill.
The “plans” vomited forth by Republicans in Congress would strip tens of millions of Americans of their health insurance, and are deeply unpopular. They would also break every health-related promise that Trump made in the campaign, including promises not to slash Medicaid and Medicare. They are going nowhere. In short, Trump is not putting the health and lives of millions of Americans at risk in order to implement something that he considers better because he has no idea of what “better” would be, and no way to enact it even if he did.
He’s doing it because he can destroy, but he cannot build.