President Trump is not an ideologue — not because he’s open-minded, but because he has little in the way of particular beliefs about policy. He does, however, have impulses, inclinations and prejudices. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), on the other hand, is an ideologue, as are many if not most of his compatriots in Congress.
Put that Congress and this White House together, and you get a Republican government with a clear and coherent ideology, one you can sum up in a short declarative statement:
You’re on your own.
This is the driving principle behind nearly everything the Republicans are trying to do in domestic affairs (the foreign affairs version is we’re on our own, and to hell with everyone else). Here are a few recent examples.
Yesterday, Ryan staged one of his PowerPoint presentations on the Republican health-care plan, the kind that makes Washington pundits swoon about how wonky and smart he supposedly is. Here’s part of what he said:
“The fatal conceit of Obamacare is that we’re just going to make everybody buy our health insurance at the federal level, young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for older, sicker people. So the young healthy person’s going to be made to buy health care, and they’re going to pay for the person, you know, who gets breast cancer in her 40s, or who gets heart disease in his 50s … the whole idea of Obamacare is … the people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick. It’s not working, and that’s why it’s in a death spiral.”
Clever readers will realize that what Ryan is describing here is actually called “insurance.” First of all, the healthy and the sick aren’t different people; they’re people at different points in their lives. And the whole idea of insurance is that those who don’t need it at a particular moment are paying for those who do. By Ryan’s logic, homeowner’s insurance is crazy, because those whose houses weren’t destroyed by tornadoes are paying for those whose houses were destroyed. If you didn’t get into a car accident this month, your insurance premiums paid to repair the cars of people who did. What an upside-down world we live in.
So the Republican health-care plan is, essentially, you’re on your own. They want to claw back the expansion of Medicaid — sorry, working poor, you’re on your own. They want to remove the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies for middle-income people and replace them with some meager tax credits. If that isn’t enough to allow you to afford coverage, you’re on your own. That’s also the principle behind the privatization of Medicare that Ryan has long advocated: He wants to replace Medicare’s guaranteed coverage for seniors with a voucher that might or might not pay for private coverage. If it doesn’t, you’re on your own. Sure, millions of people will lose coverage if they repeal the ACA, but that’s less important than whether we’re all enjoying more “freedom.”
But there’s more. As Kimberly Kindy reports:
House Republicans are advancing a series of bills that would make changes to the civil justice system long sought by doctors and U.S. corporations, including a cap on some medical malpractice awards and new roadblocks for classes of people seeking to sue jointly to address harm.
If your doctor amputates the wrong leg or leaves a sponge inside your body or even kills you through malpractice, guess what: You’re on your own. If you and thousands or millions of other people were screwed over by a corporation and Republicans have their way, you won’t be able to join together to sue. You’re on your own.
Meanwhile, a government-wide assault is underway on any entity that tries to protect citizens; indeed, if an agency has the word “protection” in its name, it’s almost certainly being targeted. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which works to prevent the financial industry from preying on consumers, is particularly galling to Republicans, perhaps because it has returned $11.8 billion to 29 million consumers who were victimized by misconduct by banks, payday lenders and credit card companies. Ted Cruz has introduced legislation to abolish it, while a bill championed by Jeb Hensarling, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, would “limit the bureau’s enforcement authority, reduce its ability to make rules and repeal its consumer complaint system.”
The Trump administration is on board with an effort to, at a minimum, defang the agency by replacing its director with a committee that could mire it in the same kind of paralysis we see at agencies such as the Federal Election Commission. If your bank or your credit card company cheats you? You’re on your own.
Then there’s the Environmental Protection Agency, now run by a climate denier who made his career suing to stop environmental regulations from being enforced. One of Congress’s first acts this year was to undo an Obama administration rule limiting the amount of coal ash that could be dumped in streams. If you live in the wrong area and you’re fond of clean water? You’re on your own. That’s just a small part of the comprehensive assault on environmental and climate change regulation we’re going to see.
Or if you need help affording housing? The administration is planning to cut $6 billion from the budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. How about if your local police department is mistreating you and your fellow citizens? Sorry, you’re on your own: In his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions made clear that the Justice Department will step back from monitoring police departments for abuse. And don’t think that workplace protections are going to be vigorously enforced, not under this administration and with this Congress. In fact, Republicans just introduced a bill to allow companies to force their employees to undergo genetic testing. Because why not? While the Trump White House may be in chaos, powerful industries looking for action on their wish lists have been invited right in and granted quick satisfaction.
So if you already have wealth or power, “You’re on your own” will be terrific. You’ll be able to keep more money without being burdened by taxes to pay for a bunch of stuff that doesn’t benefit you and you only (Republicans haven’t even started cutting taxes for the wealthy, but have no fear: There’s a windfall coming your way). You will no longer have to worry so much about laws that might keep you from exploiting or even defrauding other people. Did you expect anything different from the head of Trump University, who scammed so many people out of their life savings?
But if you’re not rich or powerful, you may find that “You’re on your own” doesn’t work out so well. The government won’t be there to protect you or give you a helping hand. Republicans are in charge now, so it’s everyone for themselves.