Americans could have no greater example of the degree to which our federal government has descended into oligarchy than the sad spectacle of the so-called “health care reform” effort currently underway in the U.S. Senate.
Just describing the process is enough to question whether we’ve passed through the looking glass and entered an alternative universe where up is down and utter secrecy is what passes for government transparency.
For the past several weeks, a dozen Republican senators, all white and all men, have hunkered behind closed doors to craft a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. No one outside that room knows the details of the plan, but it is expected that it will be similar to the disastrous bill already passed by the House, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will add 23 million Americans to the ranks of the uninsured in less than ten years and quickly push premiums for middle-aged Americans into the stratosphere.
What is undeniable is that Republicans do not care about getting the policy details right. If they did, they would conduct their legislative process in the light of day. They would hold committee hearings to bring in the affected stakeholders, like health care providers, patient organizations, health care consultants, insurers, and many others. They would sit down and work through the details with fellow senators, governors, and other elected leaders. That’s how the Affordable Care Act was crafted. It’s how most legislation used to get made in Washington.
But Republicans aren’t doing any of that in this case because there is only one policy detail that really matters to the GOP— and that is producing a bill that will eliminate two taxes on the richest Americans. Those taxes were implemented in 2010 to help pay for premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Their elimination would save Americans with annual incomes of $1 million or more about $144 billion over the next ten years.
The impact of these tax cuts will be enormous, and will put the cost of health care coverage out of reach for millions of Americans. But that doesn’t matter to Republicans or to President Trump, for whom aiding the wealthy is Job One in Washington.
For the senators currently crafting the Obamacare replacement, it matters little what is in the plan or what its effects will be. It’s all about getting to 50 votes, which will allow Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie in order to pass the bill.
The bill is being crafted in secret because Republicans know it will be incredibly unpopular with the public. The House version of the bill is about as popular with the American people as anthrax. So GOP leaders have devised a plan to bring the bill to the floor for approval the moment they believe they have 50 votes. The bill won’t be vetted or debated in any meaningful way.
And that is precisely the GOP’s strategy. They want members to vote on the bill before anyone understands it, and certainly before the American people get an idea of the scale of disaster that Washington is devising for them.
This is a bill that does not serve the American people, the public interest, or basic human decency. If it did, Republicans would be happy to show it to us.
Instead, this is a bill that exclusively serves the interests of the roughly 500,000 Americans who make $1 million a year or more. In other words, it serves the top 0.1 percent— the oligarchs who increasingly dictate policy out of Washington.
When forced to choose between tens of millions of struggling Americans and the top 0.1 percent, the Republicans make no bones about it. They serve the oligarchs. And they operate behind closed doors because, at the end of the day, they’re still too embarrassed to sell out America in the light of day.