One Big Republican Loserpalooza
Who’s the biggest loser crawling out of the smoldering wreckage of the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act—Donald Trump or Paul Ryan? Who cares?
The important part is that 24 million Americans whose health insurance Republicans targeted for destruction and millions more who would have faced soaring premiums for much worse insurance have won.
Perhaps even more important, Trump, who ran for president pretending to be a brilliant corporate dealmaker, and Ryan, chosen as House Speaker for glibly making right-wing extremism sound palatable, both were exposed as complete frauds.
Trump made a show of coming in as the celebrated “closer” to convince Republicans to risk their political careers to support a plan being angrily denounced by their shouting constituents in packed town halls. It quickly became obvious to skeptical Republicans Trump had little idea what was really in the bill he once falsely claimed would cover everybody in the country at a fraction of the cost of so-called Obamacare.
Ryan, Trump’s partner-in-crime who actually wrote the bill, knew exactly what was in it. He gushed publicly it was the beginning of the extreme right-wing restructuring of government he’d been dreaming about for his entire career.
With Republicans controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress, everyone looked a lot more closely at Ryan’s health care plan than his previous destructive proposals for Social Security and Medicare, which never had any chance of passing. They saw a terrible bill widely described even by rational Republicans as one of the worst pieces of legislation ever to be introduced in Congress. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the Republican plan would result in even more Americans without health insurance than in the bad old days before the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
Then, unbelievably, Trump and Ryan, attempting to win votes from the irrational right-wing Freedom Caucus, made their bill even worse. They removed a section of the bill requiring insurers to cover 10 “essential health services” including care for pregnant women and newborns and treatment for drug addiction and mental illness.
By the time Trump and Ryan finally gave up in defeat and withdrew the bill without a vote, only 17% of Americans supported the Republican plan in the most recent public poll.
GOP Incompetence Good News for America
The crushing defeat was a resounding victory for tens of millions of Americans. Republicans, who claimed for seven years that replacing the Affordable Care Act was their first priority, had no idea how to do it. Trump, who promised a “terrific” magical plan to replace it on Day One, didn’t have a clue.
The total incompetence of Trump, Ryan and other Republican leaders in passing their destructive legislation was the best news for America since November. Trump showed he’d learned absolutely nothing from the legislative disaster, saying he would simply move on to tax reform because it was easier.
It’s not. It’s harder. Trump and Republicans are certainly eager to cut taxes for the wealthy, but there’s a very good reason why reform of tax rates hasn’t been attempted since Ronald Reagan’s presidency in 1986. The only way to lower tax rates without bankrupting the nation is to replace the enormous amount of lost revenue by closing those tricky loopholes major corporations and individual billionaires like Trump use to avoid paying any taxes at all for many years. That’s why tax reform brings every special interest group on the planet out of the woodwork to fight against losing their favorite loopholes.
The whole point of the Republican health care plan wasn’t to provide health care — obviously. It was to slash nearly a trillion in taxes over the next 10 years for wealthy individuals and corporations that provide the subsidies to help Americans buy insurance. And it failed miserably.
Anti-government Republicans are just as hostile to Trump’s other publicly proclaimed legislative priorities—spending tens of billions of dollars on a worthless Mexican wall and nearly a trillion dollars to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.
There’s no reason to believe Ryan will be any more successful in getting the “Just Vote No” Freedom Caucus to support that legislation. That’s why Trump is suddenly talking about working with Democrats to pass bipartisan legislation on health care and other issues.
Since he’s a pathological liar with a limited attention span, Trump has never been terribly reliable at predicting what Trump might do next. But Democrats should immediately introduce bipartisan legislation with moderate Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act, including a public option to increase competition with private companies to lower costs.
More than anything else, Trump wants to be a winner. If he sticks with Ryan trying to get right-wing extremists and more moderate Republicans to agree on anything, health care could be just the beginning, in a twist on one of his own campaign clichés, of losing so much that Trump is going to get tired of losing.