Barack Obama is imploring congressional Republicans not to throw millions of people off of their health insurance for the sake of diminishing his legacy.
The former president has largely held his peace through the first five months of the Trump presidency, opting to lead the resistance from behind — abjuring the spotlight, while working behind-the-scenes to cultivate the next generation of Democratic leadership.
But with his signature health-care law on life support, Obama condemned the GOP’s plan to finance a capital-gains tax cut by throwing millions off of Medicaid in no uncertain terms.
“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health-care bill,” Obama wrote on Facebook. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.”
The president continued:
It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.
Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.
Elsewhere in his post, Obama expresses the hope that Republican senators will “remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win,” and “consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.”
Of course, the GOP’s rationale for repealing Obamacare isn’t merely about undoing what the first black president did — it’s also about redistributing hundreds of billions of dollars from the poor to the rich.
But Obama’s missive’s true audience is less Mitch McConnell’s band of reactionaries, than his own supporters. The ex-president suggests that bipartisan legislation that genuinely improves the Affordable Care Act is possible, under certain conditions:
If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.
Obama’s confidence in the good intentions of his political adversaries, and the strength of the American republic, may, once again, prove misplaced. A good portion of the Republican caucus is more invested in transferring wealth from poor to rich than they are in retaining elected office. And there’s a chance that mass protests may actually make some of the party’s moderates (and/or amoral pragmatists) more eager to do their leadership’s bidding. As the Washington Post reported after the House passed Trumpcare:
As GOP leaders scrambled to bring the last holdouts aboard in recent days, they made the argument that the liberal base is already on fire, anxious to take back control of the House in next year’s midterm elections. That means Republicans could ill afford to fall short on their health-care promise and risk depressing their own turnout.
Which isn’t to say that progressives shouldn’t heed Obama’s call. Mass activism against the bill — aimed squarely at the Senate’s most vulnerable and/or moderate GOP members — is still the last, best hope of Trumpcare’s opponents. On Thursday afternoon, Maine’s Susan Collins suggested that she will not be able to support anything resembling the current bill. All is not yet lost.
But it’s hard to fight the feeling that it will be soon.