“I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans,” Donald Trump proclaimed the night he won the Oval Office.
Five months later, the president pledged to shut down the government to prevent any emergency aid from reaching a certain subcategory of U.S. citizens.
Puerto Ricans are American citizens who pay taxes. But unlike other citizens, they live in an area where Medicaid is not funded as an entitlement — available to all who qualify for aid — but rather, as a block grant. Now, due to a debt crisis that our federal government is complicit in perpetuating, the island will run out of Medicaid funding by the end of this year. At that point, a half-million of its residents will likely lose access to health coverage.
Democrats are imploring Republicans to include funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid plan in the next spending bill. The case for doing so is not merely humanitarian. If 500,000 Puerto Ricans lose access to health insurance, a good number will avail themselves of their citizenship rights and move to the mainland. This would swell the Medicaid rolls of U.S. states, where the cost of covering the medical care of low-income residents is far higher than it is in Puerto Rico. Which is to say: It’s quite likely that rescuing Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program would not merely save the lives of low-income citizens, but also accomplish some things that Republicans actually care about, like averting an even larger burden on “taxpayers” and reducing “low-skilled” migration to the American mainland.
But to achieve all that, Trump and his party would need to first go on record in support of directing health-care funding to an island of Hispanic-Americans. And the president would, apparently, prefer to shutter his own government than do that.
Which is odd. After all, Trump has made it clear that his hard-line immigration positions aren’t informed by animus for nonwhites, but merely loyalty to American citizens of all stripes. And he has also insisted that he “loves Hispanics” and believes that all Americans deserve access to health care.
Is it possible that these sentiments were less than sincere — and that Trump sees himself as president for some Americans, but not others?