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Ron Johnson's Profile in Ugliness

Jul. 3, 2017
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Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Ever since Republicans controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress embarked on their mission to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy by destroying health care for more than 20 million Americans including the sickest, the most disabled and those least able to pay, we’ve been waiting for that first authentic Republican Profile in Courage.

Profiles in Courage, the 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller by rising political star John F. Kennedy, celebrated politicians throughout American history with enough principles to publicly stand up against egregious wrongs in times of moral crisis. There’s no such Republican in sight.

Sure, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have had a fight on their hands passing the truly ugly transfer of nearly $800 billion dollars funding health care for people who need it into the already bulging pockets of the ultra-wealthy who don’t. Such appalling political acts should never be easy.

But even among House Republicans, who dragged their feet before voting to destroy health care for millions, and now among grousing Republican senators, representing those enormous numbers of Americans whose lives they’re putting at risk, not a single Republican has had the courage to stand up and state the obvious—Republican destruction of public health care for tens of millions to make their richest supporters richer is immoral and indefensible.

Instead, both extreme right-wingers and slightly less extreme right-wingers (the only kinds of Republicans there are these days) are happy to negotiate, nudging McConnell’s vicious, inhumane destruction of health care to make it slightly less appalling in some ways and more appalling in others. That provides both groups of Republicans with excuses to vote for a truly appalling law, claiming they somehow made it better in ways too small to be seen with the naked eye.


Do-Nothing Senator Does the Wrong Thing

One of the most surprising Republican senators to pretend to take a stand, sort of, against the health care bill was Wisconsin’s Sen. Ron Johnson. Surprising, of course, since Johnson never bothered to do much of anything in Washington during his first term as far as anyone in Wisconsin could tell.

Well, Johnson still hasn’t. Johnson raised one legitimate objection against McConnell’s attempt to bum rush the law through the Senate within days to prevent the overwhelming U.S. opposition that rose up against the House bill when Americans found out about its horrific provisions.

But that wasn’t why Johnson attacked McConnell. His reasons were more petty and personal. Johnson was still seething because McConnell wrote off his chances of winning re-election against former Sen. Russ Feingold (as did many other observers who saw the polls) and refused to allocate any substantial Senate Republican campaign funds to Johnson’s race.

Johnson’s twisted, ideological reasons for opposing the Senate health care bill were spelled out in an op-ed column Johnson wrote for The New York Times. It wasn’t ugly enough. Johnson’s basic objection to the Affordable Care Act is, get this, the government is helping to provide affordable health care to people with pre-existing conditions and little income who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

“As a result, patients neither know nor care what things cost,” Johnson wrote.  “We have virtually eliminated the power of consumer-driven, free-market discipline from one-sixth of our economy.”


Health Care for Those Who Need It

People are actually getting access to health care they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford thanks to government subsidies under Obamacare as well as Medicaid, which has provided health care for poor Americans for more than half a century. Johnson wants to restore the free market not only by destroying Obamacare for more than 20 million Americans, but begin destroying Medicaid as well for another 70 million Americans.

Those 70 million, by the way, now include about half of all births taking place in the U.S. and nearly two-thirds of the nation’s elderly nursing home residents after they have exhausted their life savings. And, oh yeah, Medicaid also covers all disabled adults and children.

To Johnson, “a simple solution is obvious. Loosen up regulations and mandates, so that Americans can choose to purchase insurance that suits their needs and that they can afford.”

If that last sentence makes sense to you, like Johnson you have a serious thinking problem. For those with lifelong disabilities, expensive pre-existing conditions or facing years of end-of-life nursing home care, all with few resources, the insurance that suits their needs often bears little resemblance to the insurance they can afford.

That’s why tens of millions of Americans will still need access to the affordable care Republicans want to destroy. Those hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy aren’t going to buy them eternal life anyway, just a fancier box.

Even if Republicans like Johnson never have any hope of qualifying as profiles in courage, they should at least have the decency to stop showing us their backsides so often.


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