Saturday, March 11, 2017

RSVP to an Invitation from Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon, the White House Chief Strategist and nationalist lightening-rod extraordinaire, has made his public speaking debut at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) a couple of weeks ago. I’ll leave the dissection of his remarks to people who get paid millions of dollars to spin things, but at the very end of the interview, Mr. Bannon invited the audience, and by extension the American people, to help the Trump administration in a very peculiar way: “We want you to have our back... but also and more importantly, hold us accountable. Hold us accountable to what we promised. Hold us accountable for delivering on what we promised”. Well, Mr. Bannon, here is my RSVP to your most gracious invitation.

I would like to hold you accountable for the way you are handling, or rather mishandling, the debate around Obamacare, and health care in general. As far as I can tell, and by your own admission, your job Mr. Bannon is to implement the President’s agenda as presented to the American people for consideration during his campaign. I have watched approximately 90% of candidate Trump’s rallies, all the debates and all the interviews, because as a bleeding heart liberal, I had to be sure I knew exactly what I was voting for. What he promised, what you all promised, was to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and you made it crystal clear that Mr. Trump was the only candidate (excluding the defeated Bernie Sanders) to commit to this trifecta of righteousness. I would like to hold you accountable for delivering on this promise in its entirety.

Yes, Mr. Trump promised to “repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare” multiple times to standing ovations, and yes, he spoke loosely about selling insurance across state lines and health saving accounts and having all sorts of choices. In rally after rally, the President explained over and over again what he thought was wrong with Obamacare: the premiums going through the roof, especially that blessed 116% in Arizona, the high deductibles that make it impossible for people to see a doctor unless they are hit by a truck or are near death (whichever comes first, I guess). But most of all he spoke about “something terrific” that will replace the “failing Obamacare” and more recently President Trump promised health insurance for all Americans including those who cannot pay for it. I would like to hold you accountable for this terificness in all its promised glory.

My inclination is to say that so far your team has not delved into the intricacies of health care reform. If you would have, one or another incendiary piece of paper would have leaked to The New York Times by now. I get that dealing with insurance is not as philosophically elevating as dealing with culture wars and other grand historical trends, but back in the trailers of the Appalachian Mountains, and in the modest homes of rust belt workers who lost their jobs to the globalized economy, and at every kitchen table in the America where decisions are still made at kitchen tables, health insurance is a life and death problem. President Trump promised to be the voice of these forgotten people. He promised to speak for them, fight for them and win for them. Of all the promises you made, this is the one promise I will hold you most accountable for.

The other day the new GOP “secret plan” to repeal and replace Obamacare has been finally unveiled in two separate pieces. We have seen Obamacare replacement plans from the party of Ayn Rand long before this election, so I will not hold you accountable for the childishly vindictive Ryan “plan”, or the more comprehensive cruelty of Dr. Price’s “bill”, and I know that this “new” abomination, which is a clumsy cross between the two, is not your plan, Mr. Bannon. For all I know this may be a brilliant strategy to eschew the responsibility of fixing Obamacare, because this new plan is not likely to clear the House and it certainly won’t get through the Senate, but in the unlikely event that it does, I will hold you accountable if this exercise in boldfaced deceit ever becomes law.

The “experts” will be delving into all the gory details, but please allow me to cut through the chase. The GOP plan is a perfidious conservative concoction. The GOP plan is killing Medicaid and Medicare. The GOP plan is reducing premium support for most people without employer or government supplied health insurance. The GOP plan is increasing exposure to those awful high deductibles for millions of additional people, poorer older and sicker than before.  And finally, the GOP plan is cutting taxes for wealthy people and corporations. Is this your idea of how we put America First, Mr. Bannon? Is this President Trump’s idea of how we Make America Great Again? It never occurred to me to ask, sir, but what do you guys mean when you say “America”? I cannot obviously hold you accountable for the answer, but history and whichever God you pray to, eventually will.

I do agree with you Mr. Bannon on the nefarious effects of a globalized economy and the feckless role played by a “globalist, corporatist media” machine, and I have your back in this fight for the soul of America and the dignity of the American worker. I am sure you can appreciate how difficult it is for a liberal to make such statements amidst the frothing and frenzied neo-McCarthyism upon us now. The only remaining question, Mr. Bannon, is whether you have our backs. I have not seen President Trump shrink from a fight before, and whether you like it or not, health care, not Russia, will be the defining issue of his presidency. As conservative corporatism is fusing with progressive globalism, combining the worst of both worlds into a formidable force against the people, I will hold you accountable for failing to side with the irredeemably deplorable masses that put you in the White House in the first place.

President Trump needs to stand up and clearly state that he will not sign a bill that takes away whatever little health care poor, sick and low income people still have. These people are us, Mr. Bannon. They are the #TrumpTrain, the Movement, the Bikers for Trump, the Latinas for Trump, the “build that wall” and “lock her up” chanters, and the ones who took you up on your offer, because “what the hell do they have to lose”. They didn’t come “pouring in” to demand less health care for themselves so there’s more cash available for the “administrative government”. These people may not know much about the abject art of politicking, but they have vast expertise in getting screwed. They know it when they see it. And they are seeing it now, Mr. Bannon. They are seeing it now.

It would be most unfortunate, and the end of the road for me, if the first legislation enacted by this administration is one where once again men in fancy suits forget those who have always been forgotten, in stark contradiction to explicit promises made repeatedly, both before and after the elections. A government of, by and for the people, another frequently made promise, does not enact immoral legislation, and the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is beyond immoral. Your boss, Mr. Bannon, is the President of the United States of America. He is the President of the American people, even the poor ones, especially the poor ones. He has the power and the duty to veto immoral legislation, and we the people will hold President Trump accountable for that.

4 comments:

  1. Can we start by accepting that Mr. Bannon and President Trump are part of the Executive Branch and they have little say over what happens in the Legislative Branch?

    They really don't have many weapons to 'fight' with, just as President Obama didn't have many weapons to fight with in 2008. They both (Trump and Obama) have to take whatever comes from the legislators and do their best to put a happy face on it.

    The President can rant and rave and promise all he wants but what really matters is the bill that can get enough votes in the Senate. So far, it doesn't look like any bill can get enough votes.

    Just as Obamacare was written by the legislators, so will be any replacement. Unfortunately, the President and Mr. Bannon don't have much to do with it.

    If the president really could do the things you suggest, wouldn't Obama have done them and avoided this mess in the first place?

    I can hear your frustration, but I think it's pointed at the wrong people.

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    1. Yes, but the President can stop legislation from becoming law if there is no super-majority in the Senate. He can at least do that. I know it's unusual if they all belong to the same party, but this is an unusual presidency.

      My preference would be that Mr. Trump gets small Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. I think he would deal, like Bill Clinton did with Newt Gingrich, and therefore tilted considerably to the right. I am pretty sure Mr. Trump would have no problem leaning left on many social issues and on health care too.
      Maybe that's what 2018 will bring...

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  2. Well written as always! Your "bleeding heart" + clear healthcare expert + Trump voter credentials give you a unique and important perspective. Thanks.

    -Dan
    UNM Family Medicine

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