Is the Republican Party’s insatiable drive to benefit its richest donors running the risk of zombifying the party before it can get any work done? Let’s hope so. Because while the GOP may have positioned themselves as the Saviors of the American people, it’s quickly becoming apparent the moniker is as apt to America’s most right wing party as it is to the group in AMC’s The Walking Dead. And, just like in the show, people are getting pissed. Quick.
The debate over the GOP health care bill is exposing the Republican Party to the public—and the public is not impressed. Speaker Paul Ryan is finding it difficult to corral enough of his caucus to support the bill in the House, but even if it passes the larger Congressional body, it’s almost assured to fail in the Senate where members of that august body can read the writing on the wall. The President, who has tied himself to the bill, is more unpopular than ever.
The fissures in the GOP base that have been exposed by the bill are clear to any dispassionate observer, and they’ve been clear for quite a while. The voters, including much of the Republican faithful, just don’t buy the actual bullshit of GOP policy.
Perhaps nowhere in the current debate was this more clear than in Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz’s comments about what the American poor should do if they find healthcare unaffordable. The problem isn’t rising prices and a predatory industry in Chaffetz’s worldview. No, the issue is the priorities of the poor.
“Americans have choices,” Chaffetz said, “and they’ve got to make a choice. So rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.”
Naturally, the comments drew widespread condemnation. But Chaffetz was only putting into words the GOP philosophy around healthcare and any other social program—the poor are poor because of their bad decisions and the money spent on helping the less fortunate is better directed to the richest in society.
The latter portion of this philosophy is reflected in whom the bill really benefits. Here’s a hint: it’s not 99 percent of us. No, the GOP bill will cut Medicaid funding and slash health benefits for the poor while delivering a tax cut of some $275 billion over the next decade. The Atlantic’s Gene B. Sperling broke down the numbers, and even for the GOP, they’re staggering in that this tax cut for the rich is buried in what is ostensibly a healthcare bill.
Those in the top tenth of 1 percent would get an average tax cut of about $197,000, while the top 400 earners in the country—a group of individuals who average $300 million in annual income—would receive an average tax cut of $7 million each.
The reason for these cuts is, on the face of it, pretty simple. The majority of the funding for the ACA comes from taxes on the wealthy. While the bill taxes everyone, the richest in the US pay more. It’s not an aberrative tax, but it’s one that the GOP finds particularly distasteful: why should the rich, who are the best amongst us, pay for the healthcare of the poor, who have made bad decisions and in some Calvinistic fashion deserve their fate?
Because that’s truly what this “repeal and replace” bill is all about. The GOP is using the public’s anger over the failed implicit promise of Obamacare—that it would ensure the right to healthcare for all Americans—to ram through a piece of cobbled together policy that will destroy even the limited gains of the former in order to benefit the loathed ultra-rich elite class.
There was a scene in the most recent episode of The Walking Dead in which a villain from the authoritarian Saviors informs the leader of a defenseless group of survivors that he’s taking the community’s doctor. The community patriarch sputters about what he’ll do for his people if they get sick or wounded, but the Saviors have a plan—a huge box of Aspirin.
The showrunners must be drawing on current affairs. It’s just like the Republican health care bill; taking the imperfect means for medical survival in our dystopia away from the public and replacing it with an inferior and ineffective alternative that will almost certainly cost lives, and they’re doing it all to benefit the most powerful and uncaring segment of society. Something’s gotta give.
You can reach Eoin Higgins on Facebook and Twitter.