So there was what looked like a perfect team picture for the Republican Party, the one that was going to speak for all the Americans who got left behind, in the Rose Garden last week behind President Trump, after their health care bill made it through the House of Representatives in the political version of a baseball game won in the bottom of the ninth inning.
You kept looking at all of those smiling faces, mostly white, mostly male, and the more you did the more you thought — on this day when they created the potential for millions of Americans to lose their health care — that the picture begged for the following caption:
“I’ve got mine.”
Or perhaps this:
“Everybody into the lifeboats, boys. Me first.”
These are intentionally short thoughts, easy for these guys to process. They were also much easier to read than the bill they had just passed, even as they reacted as if it were about to be prom night in Washington.
Things will likely be different when the thing gets to the Senate, a place where the art of self-preservation is even stronger than in the House; when Republican senators suffering from the kind of stomach problem that constantly afflicts House Speaker Paul Ryan — no guts — start reading the provisions about pre-existing conditions that should have scared hell out of them in the House a lot more than Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act ever did.
But none of that seemed to matter last week, where in the eyes of a Republican House, they had done their part to make the republic safe from Obamacare. They had delivered on their end of the promise to repeal and replace, which to them became the modern equivalent of “Give me liberty or give me death.” Apparently no one was supposed to notice or care about the sweetheart tax deals in this bill for all those fortunate enough to live in “I’ve Got Mine” America.
And of course, Reuters reported, one of the richest of them all, Warren Buffett, granddaddy of rich old white guys, said this to his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders at their annual meeting in Omaha, as he explained how his taxes would have gone down 17% last year if the new Republican bill had already become law:
“So it is a huge tax cut for guys like me.”
This is the bill that had them celebrating behind Trump in the Rose Garden after pre-gaming inside, as if we were well on our way to getting the kind of universal health care here that they have in Australia, presided over by a president, Malcolm Turnbull, who is apparently now our own President’s very best friend. This was the deal being high-fived even as the Republicans who voted against it — this can only mean ones who actually took the time to read it — spoke of the impending peril for Americans with existing and perilous conditions.
And it was supposed to be more fine print, as the New York Times pointed out on Saturday, that groups like the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, after their people actually read this bill, came to the conclusion that it would absolutely weaken protections for people with what the Times described as “ongoing medical conditions.”
These people are not just at risk because of those conditions, but also because so many are suffering from them can barely afford the health care they have now. Gov. Cuomo said after the bill passed that it would be an “assault on New York,” pointing out that if passed into law it would deprive 2.7 million residents in the state of their coverage, and weaken the state’s Medicaid funding.
But that is not what seemed to matter to the people at what actually looked like a country club convention. What seemed to matter the most, and to the guy out front, was that they had finally put some legislative points on the board. Any kind of points. Once again it was as if the photo op, the show, the production, were everything, whether you were getting played by these guys or not.
They reacted as if they had suddenly built a big, beautiful wall between America and the Affordable Care Act. And really did seem almost drunk that they had, for one more day, gotten to say no to Obama one more time.
But here is what a surgeon named Dr. Atul Gawande, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said to George Stephanopoulos about this bill on Sunday:
“I read the bill and there are three big concerns. One is the weakening for protections of people (with) pre-existing conditions. Another is the major cuts in the number of people who are on Medicaid coverage. And then the third is the increased cost for people who buy insurance on their own, especially if they’re over 50.”
Other than that, though? Beautiful. Somebody tap a keg. And then hope nobody drinks so much they get sick.