Once again this week we have cause to celebrate the inability of Congress to pass a cruel replacement for the Affordable Care Act. In addition to 48 Democrats in the Senate, four Republicans planned to vote against the bill that would have brutalized the poor, elderly, and millions with pre-existing conditions.
Not all of the dissenting Republicans were concerned that the bill would hurt their constituents. While some Senators wanted even more draconian cuts to the protections in the ACA, Trump declared that he does not “own” the failed health care bill and that he plans to let “Obamacare” fail. Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled government can do just that by failing to support subsidies paid to insurance companies.
In the midst of our fight against Congressional assaults which would ultimately harm millions of poor and working people, I continue to ask “Why?”. Why does the Congressional majority seem so intent to pass legislation that will hurt so many? Coupled with the debacle of the proposed health care bills, there is a plan to cut Social Security benefits, a proposal to turn Medicaid into a voucher system, a disastrous budget, and tax cut proposals that would dramatically lower taxes for the wealthy and businesses.
Why? Because the very wealthy have political clout that you and I do not have. They are able to protect their own interests and unduly influence Congressional action through unlimited contributions since the Supreme Court (2014) struck down the “limit on the total amount of money wealthy donors can contribute to candidates and political committees.” Previous limits were intended to “blunt the influence of money in politics.” (Washington Post)
We are, in effect, giving our democracy over to those who can pay to support their self-serving interests. Without concern for those less fortunate, many super-rich have goals only to get richer, taking ever-larger pieces of the American economic “pie.” In an example of total disregard for the poor, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had the audacity to suggest that the poor who did not purchase insurance through the proposed plan would be choosing the insecurity that lack of insurance would impose. Perhaps he has never been in the position of choosing to eat or buy insurance; unfortunately, many people are in exactly that predicament.
The change in wealth inequality (the rich get richer while the poor get poorer) is evident:
The wealthy didn’t always take such a big share of the proverbial “pie.” In the 1970s, a decade generally seen as fairly prosperous, the top 1% of Americans earned just over 10% of all U.S. income (i.e. the “pie”). Over time, the rich became more lucky — or more greedy. Today the top 1% take home more than 20% of all U.S. income. (Money/CNN)
The average family in the top 1 percent of earners makes 40 times more than the average family in the bottom 90 percent of households. Families in the top 0.01 percent—the 1 percent of the 1 percent—make, on average, a whopping 198 times more than those in the bottom 90 percent, according to Saez and fellow economist Thomas Piketty. (Mother Jones)
This legislative victory was hard-won and due in large part to millions of Americans’ political activism. Good for us, but we can not become complacent for even a minute. Absent great wealth and financial influence in congress, what can we do? We can maintain our vigilance, stay politically active, lobby our Members of Congress to take right action, vote, run for office (even locally), and make our voices heard….over and over and over again.