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William Rivers Pitt | Graham-Cassidy Is Evil Incarnate

Wicked, malevolent, sinful, malicious and criminal.

US Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) listen during a news conference on health care September 13, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “evil” as “morally reprehensible; arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct; causing discomfort or repulsion; disagreeable; causing harm; marked by misfortune.” Synonyms for “evil” include the words wicked, malevolent, sinful, malicious and criminal.

Sounds just about exactly right.

After eleventy billion failed attempts to do away with Obamacare, we have arrived at this latest, last iteration right here at the edge of everything, where the shore gives way to the deep blue sea. I’ve been staring smoking holes in the white space on my screen trying to find a calmly professional way to describe the first-degree murder and grand theft represented by the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Being nice is not appropriate for the current moment. Remaining calm is not an option.

I’m through playing patty cake with these people. Graham-Cassidy is morally reprehensible. It arises from bad character. It causes discomfort and harm, and is marked by misfortune. It is altogether wicked, malevolent, sinful, malicious and criminal. It is evil in every sense of the word, and the fact that it is not only being considered by the US Senate, but could still actually pass, deals a lethal blow to the very theory of evolution itself. We are not evolving; we are merely marking time, meat on a plate for predators with a rich taste for blood.

Being nice is not appropriate for the current moment. Remaining calm is not an option.

Somehow, Graham-Cassidy manages to be worse by orders of magnitude than any of its deceased cousins. Some 32 million people stand to lose health coverage if it passes. The bill opens a loophole that allows states to redefine what “essential care” means, providing them the opportunity to deny people access to prenatal care, prescription drugs, mental health services and birth control.

Under this bill, states can apply for waivers to exempt themselves from having to cover pre-existing conditions. If they can’t get the waiver, the insurance companies will still be able to jack up the rates for people with pre-existing conditions, thus pricing them out of the marketplace. According to the Center for American Progress, having asthma under Graham-Cassidy will cost you an extra $4,340 a year. Autism will run you an extra $5,510 a year. Multiple sclerosis? Tack on $26,580 a year. Breast cancer? $28,660 a year. Add in lifetime caps to the price discrimination: This bill has it all.

Someone should really win a prize for the Medicaid expansion portion of Graham-Cassidy, because it is dastardly and underhanded to a degree rarely seen outside of Batman comic books. Remember back when the ACA was first coming on line, and states were offered “free money” to help with their Medicaid expansion programs? Several red-state Republican governors refused to take that money and expand Medicaid coverage after the Supreme Court said they could, because taking the money would have made the legislation work, and would have been a victory for Obama.

Fast forward to Graham-Cassidy, which in the name of “parity” would strip funding from states that did expand Medicaid coverage under the ACA, and give that money to states that refused to do the expansion. Red states get the cash; blue states get the shaft. Memo to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Michigan: This bill takes your insurance money and sends it to Texas and Kansas, and the fellow you helped elect president will sign it into law if it passes next week. I hope you’ve enjoyed the show so far; it gets pretty bleak from here.

The media’s favorite parlor game right now is, “Why?” Why even consider such a demonstrably vicious piece of legislation, one that will quite literally kill or do great harm to millions? The TV people will tell you it’s because the Republicans promised their mythical base they’d repeal Obamacare, promised it for seven years running, and so they have to at least try. This is ridiculous and wrong, because they couldn’t give less of a damn about their base. As ever, as with absolutely everything, the Republicans are going for the loot, period, end of file.

The next agenda item on tap for Congress is tax “reform.” The Republicans are looking to strip billions from the ACA so they can turn that money into what might become a trillion-dollar tax cut for rich people. They need Graham-Cassidy to pass and become law so they can use the money carved out of the ACA to fund the tax giveaway they promised their wealthy benefactors. For GOP Senators, it is a matter of political survival at this point. Back in June, the Koch brothers and their big-money buddies announced they were turning off the fundraising spigot until they got their tax cut. 2018 looms.

The Republicans don’t care anymore. Most of them still don’t know what is in this bill, and few of them actually care. If you’ve seen one of the sponsors on television talking about it, they’ve been lying, because the truth is not the point of this exercise. Sen. Chuck Grassley admitted as much when he told a bunch of Iowa reporters on Wednesday that repealing the ACA was more important than whatever replaces it.

John McCain came out as a hard “no” on Friday afternoon, joining Rand Paul in opposition to the bill. Murkowski and Collins remain at the center of the drama, and deals are being peddled that would make Gordon Gekko blush. One example: Murkowski’s reward for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act will be that Alaska gets to keep the Affordable Care Act. Then came the threats. Yeah, it’s like that. These people don’t care. They want this bill, they want the money for the tax cuts and they want the Koch brothers to like them again. All else is incidental.

Republicans have until September 30 to pass this monstrosity, and as they are pursuing it under the rules of reconciliation, only 51 votes are needed for passage. The situation is going to remain murky until at least the middle of next week, because one possible scenario has the Senate parliamentarian blowing the whole thing to smithereens by stripping out those state waivers. McCain could change his mind. Anything is possible.

Doomed though it may ultimately be, the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal bill remains evil, by the black-letter definition of the word. It has no place in a civil society, and tells you all you need to know about the low place we have arrived at in this brave new century. Theft and murder are what passes for governing, the suffering of millions does not merit discussion, and the media plays the ponies to make sure we all know who’s “ahead.”

We know. Not us.

Not yet.

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