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In light of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s revelations this week that House Republicans plan to continue pushing to overhaul the health care system in the months ahead, despite their colossal failure to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), there’s one truth we can’t repeat to each other enough: The AHCA would have amounted to attempted mass murder on a national scale, and the implications of its near-success are flatly terrifying.
The total collapse of the AHCA — the GOP-designed legislative torpedo intended to sink Obamacare once and for all — was seen as a stinging rebuke for President Trump, Speaker Ryan and the Republican Party in general. It raised doubts about their ability to govern and keep their promises, and the defeat put their whole legislative agenda in peril. Many people took great joy from these developments, and from watching the Republicans try to puzzle their way through why the whole thing exploded so ignominiously in their faces.
Trump, as is his way, meandered through the blame game with typical stagger-step precision. It was the Democrats fault, no, the media’s fault, no, Ryan’s fault, no, the sink in the bathroom’s fault, until eventually blame for the fiasco was properly laid at the feet of a clutch of ultra-conservative House members who call themselves the Freedom Caucus. These Flat-Earth bitter-enders are a real piece of work; their entire purpose in government is to destroy government. They took one look at the AHCA, deemed it too generous, and locked themselves together in a Trojan phalanx of “No” votes that ultimately ran the thing onto the reef.
That’s the horserace crap, the kind of “details” and “substance” we got during media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The rancid meat on this bone, however, can be found in the bloody body of the AHCA itself. Before Ryan started meddling with it to try and placate the Freedom Caucus, the bill was already an astonishment of greed and cruelty. According to The Washington Post:
The latest version that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had a chance to analyze would have, over the course of 10 years, cut taxes by $1 trillion, disproportionately benefiting the rich; cut Medicaid spending by $839 billion, exclusively harming the poor and sick; and cut the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance subsidies by about $300 billion, mostly hurting older people of modest means. Add it all up, and the CBO estimated that 24 million people would have lost their health insurance as a result. It would have allowed them to pass two permanent tax cuts for the rich.
That was before Ryan realized he had a Freedom Caucus problem, before he went back into the bill to make changes that might attract those votes. According to the same Post article, once Ryan was done groveling to his right flank by removing even more basic protections for people, “Trumpcare also would have repealed the ‘essential health benefits’ that plans are required to cover now. States would have been allowed to write their own rules, so, depending on where you lived, insurance companies might have been able to sell you ‘insurance’ that didn’t cover hospitalizations, prescription drugs, maternity care, mental health care and preventive care, and also imposed annual and lifetime limits on your benefits.”
Not only did the AHCA in its original form steal trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy, eviscerate Medicare in historic fashion, throw millions of people out of their insurance plans and all but doom the elderly and the infirm. After the revisions, even basic items like emergency room and maternity care were chopped down because the Freedom Caucus found them to be too generous. Ponder that a moment: This bill failed not because it was too vicious, but because it was not vicious enough.
Make no mistake about it: This was a mass murder bill, plain and simple, one that would have lost by only a handful of votes had it come to the floor of the House.
The callousness with which the GOP Congress contemplated stripping away the health care of 24 million poor, sick and older people reflects an underlying eugenicist view within Trump and Bannon’s camp that the lives of the rich and powerful matter more and are the only ones worth protecting because they believe the rich are genetically superior to the poor.
In a recent New Republic article, journalist Sarah Jones documented the prevalence of this view within Trump’s inner circles:
The most powerful people in America appear to enthusiastically embrace the idea that humans can be divided into inherently superior and inferior specimens and treated accordingly. “You have to be born lucky,” President Donald Trump told Oprah Winfrey in 1988, “in the sense that you have to have the right genes.” His biographer Michael D’Antonio explained to Frontline that Trump and his family subscribe “to a racehorse theory of human development. They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”
So does Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, if the reports are to be believed. Sources told The New York Times this November that despite his devout Catholicism, Bannon “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.” Adam Serwer of The Atlantic reported in January that Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the Immigration Act of 1924 in a 2015 interview with Bannon, which could be an insight into the views of both these immigration hardliners: The act required would-be immigrants to specify whether they’d ever spent time in prison or the “almshouse,” and if their parents had ever been confined to a psychiatric hospital.
The AHCA was a mass murder bill aimed at bettering the rich while setting up the poor, elderly and infirm for ultimate disposal by dint of poor health. It very nearly earned a majority of votes in the House of Representatives, and in its final form was so wantonly punishing that it denied people access to lab work meant to help them find out what ails them in the first place. 400 years ago, the British ran a version of this game by shipping their “undesirables” off to the new American colonies where they could be worked to death for the betterment of the landed aristocracy. Four centuries later, that colony now seems content to let those same “undesirables” wither and die anonymously for the crime of not being “born lucky.”
This bill happened, it almost made it through the House, and had it survived the Senate would have been signed into law with much pomp and circumstance by President Trump … but not enough people are talking about what it really was. The failure of the AHCA may well have been the most important event of the 21st century.
The tax reform bill and the budget fight loom, not to mention the possibility of more attempts at “health care reform,” so we better start talking about it right now, because God only knows what Trump and the GOP have in mind next. If they are capable of proposing legislation like this without blinking, only to kill it because it wasn’t bloodthirsty enough, they are capable of anything.
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