In 2017, many Americans start their day by calling their senators and begging them not to take away their health care. Others show up at government offices or to protests on the street. It's stressful and occasionally demeaning, but as Paul Krugman reminds us in his Monday column, we can't stop now. The Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare is alive and well, and the GOP could use media appetite for Russian collusion (and a constitutional crisis) as cover to destroy health care.
If this sounds outlandish, consider what happened in the House in March. As Krugman writes, the House bill "seemed dead after the Congressional Budget Office released a devastating assessment, concluding that the House Republican bill would lead to 23 million more uninsured Americans. Faced with intense media scrutiny and an outpouring of public opposition, House leaders pulled their bill, and the debate seemed over."
It wasn't. Activist and media attention moved on to the next outrage of the week, and, "with the spotlight off, House leaders bullied and bribed enough holdouts to narrowly pass a bill after all." It could happen again. The news is filled with palace intrigue stories of staff shakeups, and of Trump mulling presidential pardons and how to rid himself of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Krugman doesn't blame Americans for being pulled in.
"After all," he writes, "there is growing evidence that members of the Trump inner circle did indeed collude with Russia during the election; meanwhile, Trump’s statements and tweets strongly suggest that he’s willing both to abuse his pardon power and to fire Robert Mueller, provoking a constitutional crisis, rather than allow investigation into this scandal to proceed."
Still, none of these scandals show any signs of slowing the health care bill down. Just this weekend, Trump used a speech at a military ceremony to call on audience members to pressure their senators to pass the bill. Making matters worse, Krugman points out, GOP leaders are attacking the non-partisan CBO and their lies may be working:
At this point the more or less official G.O.P. line is that the budget office — whose director, by the way, was picked by the Republicans themselves — can’t be trusted. (This attack provoked an open letter of protest signed by every former C.B.O. director, Republicans and Democrats alike.) In particular, the claim is that its prediction of huge losses in coverage is outlandish, and that to the extent that fewer people would be covered, it would be due to their voluntary choices.
Unfortunately, the predictions of 22 million losing coverage is entirely possible, especially given the Senate bill's sharp cuts to Medicaid (26 percent by 2026). The prognosis for those on private insurance isn't much better. With drastically cut subsidies, deductibles will rise just as much. If, Krugman wonders, a person making $26,000 a year has a $13,000 deductible (up from $800 under Obamacare), "would deciding not to buy that useless insurance really be a 'choice'?"
Better that we never have to find out. Instead, Krugman ends with a call to action: "we need to keep reminding wavering senators and their constituents of that fact, lest they be snowed by a blizzard of lies... while ordinary citizens can’t yet do much about the looming constitutional crisis, their calls, letters and protests can still make all the difference on health care. Don’t let the bad guys in the Senate do terrible things because you weren’t paying attention!"
Read the entire column.