News & Politics

Paul Krugman: Cruelty Is the GOP's Whole Thing

There's nothing shocking about this health care plan; Republicans have punished the poor for decades.

Photo Credit: YouTube Screengrab

In the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Republican Party has put forth legislation that would kick 22 million Americans off their health insurance by 2026, and likely drive thousands more into bankrupty with skyrocketing premiums. Now, party leaders, including junior senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) and President Trump himself, are floating the idea of repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it at a later date—this despite the fact the GOP has had seven years to produce a plan of its own.

The ploy is unspeakably cruel, even if it stands virtually no chance of becoming a political reality. But as Paul Krugman argues in his Friday column, cruelty is the Republicans' governing ethos. 

Like the American Health Care Act before it, the Senate version of Trumpcare barely constitutes a health care bill at all. A more accurate description of the legislation would be a massive tax cut for the rich, financed with hundreds of millions of dollars previously earmarked for Medicaid. These details are galling in their own right, but Krugman notes that the money ultimately saved would amount to mere pocket change for the people who need it least. "These cuts would be big in dollar terms," he writes, "but because the rich are already so rich, the savings would make very little difference to their lives."

A paltry 12 percent of the country supports the bill, according to a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll. Even some of the billionaires it directly benefits have criticized the bill's radical redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top (Warren Buffett has dubbed it "Relief for the Rich Act"). Vox estimates that over the next decade, the BCRA would lead to as many as 208,500 preventable deaths.

So why are Republicans just a handful of votes from signing this gruesome legislation into law? Why are Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan hell-bent on immiserating so many Americans, if not denying them life-saving care?

Krugman believes the answer lies with Ronald Reagan, whose repellent stereotypes about the poor have been internalized by the Republican Party. Against all evidence to the contrary, conservatives still contend that the social safety net rewards the lazy and the undeserving, even if those receiving federal aid constitute a sizable portion of the party's base. Thus, the GOP is "starting from a sort of baseline of cruelty toward the less fortunate."

"In this sense there’s nothing new about their health plan," Krugman concludes. "What it does—punish the poor and working class, cut taxes on the rich—is what every major G.O.P. policy proposal does. The only difference is that this time it’s all out in the open."

Read Paul Krugman's column at the New York Times.

Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.

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