National Commentary

GOP Health Bill ‘Callous & Cruel’

nfbenton-mugAll the usual dissembling and spinning aside, it is crystal clear that the reason the repeal of Obamacare failed last week was because the bill had become so overtly cruel and inhumane.

Of course, Trump’s campaign was based on the perception by struggling middle class Americans that their lives would improve if he were in the White House. Who has ever gotten elected promising people their lives would become worse with him in charge?

But lo, apart from all the lying and fake news, apart from all the cover ups and wild attempts to rewrite reality, the Republican leadership and the Trump administration’s first concrete step to impact the lives of the American people turned into a truly ugly exercise of trying to win votes with more and more draconian cuts to the care of tens of millions of Americans, especially elderly ones.

It didn’t take anyone else to unmask their motives in this. They did it to themselves. The presented their plan, and its outcome was so manifestly cruel that no one wanted to drive it home. It wasn’t a matter of nerve, it was a question of whether or not anyone among them ever wanted to be reelected again.

As is characteristic for them, the ruling elites in this world couldn’t contain their self-serving greed and demanded the GOP health care reform package become little more than another massive tax cut for the super-wealthy and, in order to provide for that, $300 billion in health care cuts would have to be inflicted on the rest of us.

Of all the talking heads expounding on the GOP failure last weekend, other than elected Democratic opponents, it was only Joy Ann Reid on Meet the Press who hit the nail on the head, speaking to the “callousness and cruelty” in the GOP bill.

It was a public revolt against that led to its demise.

Former Virginia Congressman Tom Davis, writing an op-ed in yesterday’s The Washington Post, parroted the common perception that it was only because the Republicans couldn’t get their act together that the effort failed. In typical Washington, D.C. political echo chamber fashion, he wrote that it was all about “fissures on the GOP caucus” and “a massive case of legislative malpractice” that were responsible, nothing to do with real substance, such as the fact that an average American, ironically many of whom voted for Trump, was able to envision how his or her family’s lives would become rapidly much worse if it passed.

When the Congressional Budget Office projected that if the GOP plan passed, 24 million Americans would be kicked off of health care plans, that pointed in fact to the tip of the iceberg, because these 24 million Americans don’t live in isolation, but are part of family and community networks that all suffer if even only one among them is disenfranchised. So, one person knocked off a plan can better be multiplied by a factor of four, or six.

With the opioid epidemic raging, with millions of Americans suffering enormously under the siege of pharmaceuticals hundreds of times more potent than heroin, dropping dead like flies, causing an alarming statistical increase in the death rate among American middle aged white males and otherwise disabling an entire generation, the proposition that health care coverage will be rolled back becomes truly monstrous.

This doesn’t belong to Trump, alone. The entire GOP leadership is responsible, and if the so-called “Freedom Caucus” led to the defeat of the GOP plan last week, it wasn’t because it was more compassionate, but the opposite. They wanted more thoroughgoing cuts.

Truly, the most unsettling thing about all this is the angry, cynical, nihilistic and downright cruel sentiment that has become dominant over in one of the nation’s two major political parties. It has become the party of hate, including for struggling Americans and for the truth, while we’re at it.

And all this is on behalf of what, and whom? The mass base of this party has been led to act in such blatant contradiction to its own self-interest that its angry reaction is to project out its self-imposed oppression onto others.


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at