The Healthcare Fixes Unfixed, Divide and Conquer on Display

Sofia    There’s no national healthcare in Bulgaria from what I learned in recent discussions, so this is a country where Americans can come to die and feel at home.  Think about that for a minute.  Living costs are relatively low.  Healthcare costs are relatively high.  Is this the world we want?  Perhaps so, because we seem headed for that situation, like it or not, ready or not.

Reading the morning papers on-line and getting past the Trump twitter tirades, the endless Russian hacking stories, and the usual grist for the mill, it was hard to miss a story in the Times that reminded us that no matter what small joy we may have harbored at the failure of the Republican Congress, the Trump project of starving the Affordable Care Act to death is making good solid progress around the land.  Worse for America, but probably great news in the West Wing of the White House is that it is yielding an even more politically beneficial result for the Trumpsters and the right wingnuts:  it’s dividing America even more.

I’ve ranted about the problems of lower waged workers suffering from the Obamacare loopholes and compromises that called them “covered” by the minimum standards of a healthcare plan if they were working for 50+ employee companies when their employers were allowed to say they were offering qualified plans with such absurd $4000 to $6000 deductibles and 9% of monthly income payments that literally NO ONE in many lower waged companies with hundreds of workers were electing coverage since it would suck up a huge portion of their checks when they were making $10 to $15 per hour.  More cynically, they were also barred because they were ostensibly covered by their employers from receiving any of the subsidies or shared cost assistance from the Obamacare marketplaces, so unless their states had expanded Medicaid, they were caught in the gap.   Nothing was sorted out in these years perhaps due to gridlock in Congress and perhaps because who really cares about low wage workers anyway?

Now in the Trump attack on the lower middle class, his starving of Affordable Care is leading, as predicted to soaring price and deductible increases on sketchy plans, almost identical to those faced by lower waged workers.  Families are seeing 50% or more increases in some states, and deductibles running up to $6000 before they are able to get benefits.  Now middle-income families are in the same boat as lower waged service workers where the cost of having insurance is creating a huge, sucking hole in their paychecks.

The shameful difference is that too many, if the Times’ report is to be believed, are not blaming Trump, the Republican Congress, gridlock, or anyone else.  They are blaming lower income families and – painful irony alert – lower waged workers.  Despite the fact that many families in both of these population segments are working their asses off at any and all jobs they can muster, this is now fueling support for even more draconian work requirements for the poor and lower income families access food stamps or even Medicaid benefits.

If that isn’t a master Machiavellian stroke approaching pure evil, what is?  Pretending Trump and his people are corrupt clowns may be satisfying to some, but as the Affordable Care fight shows, we’re in a death match now, and, friends, don’t fool yourself that we’re winning.


Kicking Them When They’re Down

Boston     Around Boston, this is their time of the year.  Another Super Bowl football extravaganza, and once again, yawn, the New England Patriots are in the big show.  The Boston Globe sports section was full of comparisons of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady’s matchup with recent backup quarterback Nick Foles for the Philadelphia Eagles.  I haven’t read any report where victory was so clearly expected and in the bag since the 2016 pre-election reports, when everyone was sure that Hillary Clinton would clean Donald Trump’s clock.

Which brings me back again to Trump and his state of the disunion speech.  If this was his best shot at unifying the country, he failed miserably.  This regurgitation of hardline immigration proposals tore to shreds any thought that there was a deal cooked up and ready, just waiting to hear the blessing.  He sent the fact checkers running again, but at least that kept them alert and awake for the 80 minutes of this speech, one of the longest state of the union addresses since anyone starting keeping time.

No one briefed the President that the football season was all over except the shouting though.  Darned if he didn’t take a thinly veiled shot once again at the players who had the temerity to speak up and stand down and take a knee or raise a fist in protest of police brutality and the treatment of African-Americans in the country.  Why did he do that?  The season is over, the protest had almost petered out by the end of the season except for some stalwart few.  The tactic has been exhausted, but rather that let it go, somehow President Trump thought that this notion of having a bully pulpit meant that he had to be a bully whenever he could stand in that pulpit.

Why can’t the President take public control of his private racism?  What is it about black athletes that drives him over the edge?  How could any speechwriter or White House staffer have thought this was a good idea, except for their desperation to keep the dog whistle blaring to his base so that he can hold onto the last shreds of his 37%, record low base?

You just know that the President was trying his best to be dignified.  He was maybe even trying to reset and unify.

As long as he can’t control his racism, his chauvinism, and the fear of foreigners from non-Scandinavian countries, trying a new shtick is not going to work, no matter how long he talks, when his heart is clearly not in it.