Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Trump chastened

With the drubbing of US President Donald Trump over his healthcare law, his first 100 days in office appear to be ending in disgrace

Trump chastened
Trump chastened

US President Donald Trump won last year’s elections by 50.1 per cent to his Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton’s 49.9 per cent. But now with the defeat of his proposed scrapping of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and in the wake of the failure of the Republican Party healthcare bill, his first 100 days in office look humiliating.

Humbled, he now has to understand that being president of the US is not like running one of his companies. Trump, after all, was particularly assiduous in cultivating a heavy-handed strongman image during his presidential campaign.

He has little to celebrate and much to learn. Trump must now win the affections of his adversaries. “Government stagnation has hindered our ability to properly function, often creating widespread congestion and leading to cost overruns and delays,” Trump has been reported as saying.

Not only was Trump defeated when he attempted to annul Obamacare, but he has also appointed a government overhaul team headed by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, husband of his daughter Ivanka. The latter has an office in the White House with special security clearance and access to classified information. Kushner has told the US newspaper the Washington Post that “government should be run like a great American company”.

Kushner, 36, a property investor and media executive, understands all too well that his wife is her father’s “eyes and ears”.

The machinations of this latter-day Ronald Reagan were thwarted this week. Yet, Trump is undeterred. “While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president, I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees. I will continue to offer my father my candid advice and counsel, as I have for my entire life,” a confident Ivanka said of her appointment.

Reactions to the rejection of Trump’s anti-Obamacare bill were swift. “Today was a big win for the president. The 44th president, Barack Obama,” declared US TV host Lawrence O’Donnell on the US channel MSNBC. “And it was, to put it in Trump-speak, a complete disaster for the current president.”

House Republican leaders, facing a revolt among conservatives and moderates in their ranks, pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration on the House floor last Friday in a major defeat for Trump during the first legislative showdown of his presidency.

“Obamacare unfortunately will explode,” Trump said later. “It’s going to have a very bad year.” At some point, he said, after another round of premium increases, “Democrats will come to us and say, ‘look, let’s get together and get a great health care bill or plan that’s really great for the people of our country’ ”.

“Obamacare was formulated on the concept of healthcare as a commercial commodity and was cloaked in ideological slogans such as ‘shared responsibility,’ ‘no free riders’ and an ‘ownership society.’ These slogans dress the insurance industry’s raid on public resources in the cloak of a ‘free-market’ healthcare system,” said Paul Craig Roberts, a former assistant secretary of the US Treasury and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal.

Obamacare was never a perfect solution to US healthcare issues. “What this means is that those Americans with the least or no disposable income are faced in effect with a substantial pay cut,” Roberts summed up in 2013. “This cost is based on pre-tax income before it is reduced by payroll and income taxes… The lives of millions of Americans will change drastically as they struggle with a new, large expense, particularly in an era of no jobs, low-paying jobs and the rising cost of living,” he elaborated.

“Diets will worsen for millions of Americans as they struggle with a new expense. Thus, the effect of Obamacare will be to worsen the health of millions,” Roberts observed.

“Obamacare not only rations healthcare by what a person or family can afford, but it also has implications for Medicare patients” who are senior citizens. “Hundreds of billions of dollars are siphoned from Medicare to help pay the cost of Obamacare. The healthcare provided to Medicare patients will decline with the reduced payments to care providers. Those judged too old and too ill could be denied expensive treatments or procedures that would prolong their lives,” Roberts warned.

Obamacare has long intrigued the international community and enraged Trump and his fellow Republicans. “You can’t pretend and say this is a win for us,” said Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, who conceded the defeat of the Republican Party repeal was a “good moment” for Democrats.

It was a chastening defeat for a president whose election campaign was built on his reputation as a negotiator and a winner. His book, The Art of the Deal, brags that “deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks,” for example.

“This is not the art of the deal,” said Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat from Texas, alluding to Trump’s book. “It is the art of the steal, of taking away insurance coverage from families that really need it to provide tax breaks for those at the very top.”

Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, asked the president to ditch the bill and avoid the humiliation of putting it to a vote. Trump had to concede defeat. “Obamacare is the law of the land,” Ryan said. “It’s going to remain the law of the land until it’s replaced.” One of the architects of the bill, Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon and chairman of the House energy and commerce committee, put it bluntly by saying that “this bill’s done”.

“We are going to focus on other issues at this point,” Walden told reporters, as Democrats relished Trump’s defeat. “Let’s just, for a moment, breathe a sigh of relief for the American people that the Affordable Care Act was not repealed,” said Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic Party leader.

“Seven years after the enactment of Obamacare, I wanted to support legislation that made positive changes to rescue healthcare in America,” Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said. “Unfortunately, the legislation before the House is currently unacceptable as it would place significant new costs and barriers to care,” he elaborated.

“We have to do some soul-searching internally to determine whether or not we are even capable of functioning as a governing body,” said Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota. Meanwhile, Trump’s trajectory appears to be echoing that of former Republican Party president Richard Nixon, who eventually faced impeachment.

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