In 2015, when Donald Trump addressed whatever in the world his health plan would be if elected, he explained that "Everybody's got to be covered." It may not have been especially detailed, but it was to the point and what he kept repeating throughout the campaign.
Indeed, when January, 2017 came around, and he spoke about the health care plan that his administration would push, he was still little-detailed but nonetheless insisted that at its core it was going to be even better than the Obamacare, and less expensive. And just to reiterate, "We're going to have insurance for everybody"
And now we get to yesterday, when reality has kicked in. That's when his budget director Mick Mulvaney went on ABC's This Week, and corrected things just a wee bit. No, he said of the Trump health plan, "We don't have universal." Well, oops, that's different. But as was also the case when Mulvaney gave his reasoning last week why the "Meals on Wheels" program would be cut (that it wasn't "showing results,"), the budget director again was tone deaf in his reasoning. "The only way to have universal care, if you stop to think about it," he said, "is to force people to buy it under penalty of law.”
"If you stop to think about it." As if -- Hold the phone! -- no one ever had stopped to think about it before. This is as empty-headed a concept as when his boss Trump explained in wide-eyed naivete to a completely-knowing public that "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."
Bad as Mick Mulvaney's "If you stop to think about it" explanation is why there won't be universal health care offered by the Trump administration, he misses the point. This point isn't that there's a good reason for not having it, or a terribly bad reason for not having it. The point is -- that throughout his run for the presidency, Trump insisted that his administration WOULD offer health care for everyone. And now isn't.
And this is where we cue all the Trump fans to once again express their dismay, "Wait, but we believed him! We didn't think he would actually do this." The exact same thing they said only last week when his proposed budget shut down the Meals on Wheels program to feed needy seniors. Or the same that they said when Republicans started making plans to actually repeal Obamacare. Expressing dismay is an understandable reaction when you keep having the rug pulled out from under you, though it does seem to lose its impact after a while. However, it still hurts every time you land.
What this means is that once again the White House is forced to send out their troops to try and divert attention from the gaping sinkhole in the freeway. (The "Don't look at that man behind the curtain" syndrome -- the larger problem here being that if you cover your eyes, you risk falling into the sinkhole.) Unfortunately, the best that spokesman Sean Spicer has been able to explain away this 180-degree contradiction between what Trump said repeatedly throughout the campaign and what actual action is being taken is that every time Trump repeatedly promised "We're going to have insurance for everybody," he apparently only meant it as an ultimate "goal." That it turns out he accidentally omitted the word, "someday." Sort of like if Martin Luther King left out the "dream" part of his "I have a dream" speech. No, no, think of what Trump kept saying as being more along the lines of, "You're going to get that new Atari game console for your birthday" merely leaves out the words, "Someday, down the line, eventually, I hope. Perhaps by the time you're 25, maybe. That's the goal." The problem is that we didn't accept that explanation when we were eight years old, and we don't as adults. Of course, the larger problem is that "We're going to have insurance for everybody" is perfectly clear.
The thing is, though -- if you do stop to think about it -- Mr. Mulvaney is not even correct. Forcing people under threat of penalty to buy health insurance is not the only way to have universal coverage. After all, you could provide single-payer universal health insurance, funded by taxes. So, there actually is another way to have universal care. I'm not saying this should be the program or not, just -- "if you stop to think about it" -- that Mr. Mulvaney is wrong.
Shocking, I know. Given that he's also the same man who only about a week or so ago tried to claim without any evidence that the Obama Administration's jobless numbers had been fixed.
If you stop to think about it...
Gee, y'know, maybe it was only Trump who didn't first stop to think about it. Though I think the most likely explanation is that he just didn't care one way or the other. He just knew that saying it sounded like the right thing.
I received a note yesterday from one of those die-hard Trump supporters (a phrase which is taking on new meaning...) who doesn't actually care about reality, only that whatever Their Leader says it must be true and the greatest thing ever. "We don't need universal," my correspondent wrote. "Trump fans don't want government provided insurance." Never mind, by the way, that we don't have "government provided insurance." Private companies still actually provide insurance. The government only helps defray some of the cost and and requires that certain basic concerns must be covered. That touch of reality aside, such thinking by my pen pal makes the massively-unsupported assumption that Trump supporters who currently get health insurance thanks to Obamacare (who are many) are not going to be livid when they discover that they are among the 24 million people who will be losing theirs.
"Wait, but we believed him! We didn't think he would actually do this."
Methinks they are going to be livid at the thought of being hoodwinked (as if one shouldn't have been able to see this coming at 500 paces), not to mention distraught at now being without coverage.
During the election, we heard the mantra from giddy conservatives that liberals and the press were the only ones who believed what Trump said and not what he meant, while Trump supporters believed what he meant but not what he said. Ha ha ha, they laughed, it was such a funny turn of the phrase. All those misguided liberals the the press. Ha ha ha.
I suspect many are not laughing now.
If you stop to think about it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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