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Katy Burns: Adventures in Trump Land

  • President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Thursday. AP

Monitor columnist
Published: 3/31/2019 12:30:18 AM

At least the Special Olympics are safe. For now.

Government support for the almost universally beloved organization – dedicated to providing athletic opportunities for individuals over age 8 with intellectual disabilities – seemed to be suddenly smack in the crosshairs of the Trump administration’s budget cutters.

Or it was until members of Congress jumped all over Education Secretary Betsy DeVos – whose chief qualifications for her job are her stupendous wealth, said to be at least $1 billion, and her loathing of all public education – for her plan to strip away the relatively modest subsidy we taxpayers give the nonprofit organization each year.

That would be $17.6 million. Or, put another way, what our government now pays for about five trips to Mar-a-Lago for the Trump entourage.

The outrage in the land was immediate. It even penetrated the walls of the White House, and Donald himself strode out to proclaim that the Special Olympics forevermore – or at least for the next year – would be secure.

That was just after the president had griped to Senate Republicans that Puerto Rico – ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, killing close to 3,000 people and destroying much of the island’s infrastructure – was getting way too much money for disaster relief. He wants it stopped, doggone it.

Maybe his gripe should more profitably be directed to the weather gods, not the Congress.

Anyway, it’s been a busy week in Trump World.

Our president took a few minutes midweek to demand that reporters stop covering congressional Democrats (and Trump critics) Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff because “they’re liars.” That’s rich, coming from someone the Washington Post, as of Feb. 17, had actually documented as telling 8,718 “false or misleading” statements – lies – since the start of his then 759-day-old presidency.

And he stopped twice in two days to denounce Washington lawyer George T. Conway, first as a “total loser” and, the next day in a tweet, as a “stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!”

His pique might be understandable. Conway had been sniping at him for months and in recent days ramped up the criticism, questioning Trump’s mental health and describing the president as fitting the clinical definition of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. He told the New York Times he found “thoroughly maddening … the utter incompetence and mendacity of the president and administration.”

This would, of course, be of little interest to most Americans if critic Conway were not the husband of Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s most trusted top aides.

At the very least all of this gives those of us in the hinterlands a fascinating glimpse into power marriages, GOP style.

But the highlight of this week’s adventures in Trump Land came early in the week when the president grandly declared that the Republicans would become “the party of health care” and, at the same time, his administration unexpectedly asked a federal court to strike down as unconstitutional the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – in its entirety. With no replacement in sight.

This would mean, of course, the end of any affordable insurance protection for people with pre-existing medical conditions or coverage of young people up to age 26 on their parents’ policies and would leave insurers free to resume charging older, sicker people higher premiums than they now pay.

All are provisions of the loathed Obamacare that people suddenly love and that Trump and congressional Republicans pledged repeatedly in their election campaigns to protect and preserve.

It’s the latest move in Trump’s bizarre dance with health care in recent years.

In October 2016, candidate Trump declared, “You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it’s going to be so easy.”

In February 2017, newly inaugurated President Trump sounded a bit baffled. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

But by this March 2019, “I understand health care now especially well,” quick learner Trump bragged.

In fact, health care in 2019 amounted to 17.8 percent of our country’s GNP – significantly higher than virtually any other developed country, most of which spend at most half that much and all of which can point to health outcomes as good as or higher than those in the U.S.A.

Since the passage of the ACA, our national cost has at least plateaued and even fractionally declined. Now, though, by asking a court to throw the ACA out entirely – with nothing to replace it – Trump’s administration would throw a fifth of our economy into total chaos.

“This is bonkers,” a Washington Post editorial forthrightly declared.

It is. Let’s remember that the ACA – Obamacare – became law in 2010 and has been in effect for nine years. It is thoroughly woven into the fabric of our health care economy. It is a complex, sprawling law that, the Post reminds us, has brought about huge (and mostly welcome) changes in Medicare, Medicaid, hospital and provider regulation, and general public health care policy. It has provided an expanded Medicaid program that extended coverage to nearly 20 million uninsured Americans.

And – in addition – Obamacare is now genuinely popular, including even among lots of Trump’s people. More than half of voters now hold a favorable opinion of the law, and even more like a lot of the individual provisions Trump’s repeal would dump.

Support for repealing the law altogether has plummeted as people have become familiar with its benefits. And at least until this week the Republican Party seemed to agree, muting the once incessant cries for its repeal.

Which means that Trump’s move to scrap the law altogether is – to put it mildly – a head-scratcher for a lot of people.

After all, some of us – well, okay, I – would much prefer to dwell on the question of whether Market Basket is haunted. At least the Market Basket in Wilmington, Mass., where several shoppers swear they’ve seen the specter of a Victorian lady – in her nightgown, no less! – hovering over the frozen peas.

And, finally, we should all rejoice that there is one thing both Democrats and Republicans have found they can agree on in this polarized country: Lawyer Michael Avenatti really is a world-class skunk and sleazeball.

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

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