The Republican health care bill is attempted murder

The Republican health care bill is attempted murder

I woke up late on June 14. The first thing I remember seeing was a tweet from Larry Lessig, a Harvard law professor, asserting that we are “AllRepublicansToday.” I’ve been numb to mass shootings since Sandy Hook, with notable exceptions like Pulse and Charleston evoking more than the resigned despair that I’m used to; however, reading about this shooting brought about another strong reaction within me. I was appalled when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot years ago, but learning that someone with an ideology close to mine did the same to Congressman Steve Scalise confounded me. 

That the act of political violence happened while the Republicans were preparing for a baseball game - that quintessential American tradition - felt to me like an attack on America itself. The broad consensus among both sides of the political center that day was profound - we need to stop using such horrible rhetoric about members of the opposing party. It seemed as if, for that day and maybe two or three of the days that followed, people really meant it. Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan appeared together at the Congressional Baseball Game wearing apparel from LSU - Steve Scalise’s alma mater. Even though the Democrats won the game, they gave the trophy to the Republicans to display in Scalise’s office. Even Ted Nugent, who had used every negative word in the English language to describe Hillary Clinton and told Barack Obama to “suck on (his) machine gun,” announced that he would change his ways to prevent another tragedy like this from happening.

The problem with this idea is that the Republicans just unveiled a health care bill that will strip coverage from millions of Americans and kill tens of thousands of people a year, and being nice to them won’t change that. The bill that Senate Republicans are calling “Better Care” is a reckless abomination - a massive tax cut for the wealthy disguised as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Among its provisions are the gutting of the Medicaid program (ending the expansion entirely), slashing subsidies for working and middle-class Americans who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, and allowing insurers to charge the elderly five times the standard rate for their health care. The bill also allows states to opt out of the ACA’s essential health benefits requirement, so that while you still technically can’t be denied coverage for your condition, your insurance company will be able to refuse to cover the disease you actually have. The ACA has its problems, and the Republican bill solves absolutely none of them. This bill is a replacement for Obamacare in the sense that leukemia is a replacement for the common cold.

This bill exists for one reason and one reason alone: to finance tax cuts for the rich - people who have never once had to worry about paying for health care in their lives. If it passes, children in this country will lose their parents to preventable diseases so that a millionaire can keep 3.8% more of his capital gains. Parents will have to tell their children that they can no longer help pay for college because they went bankrupt paying for their siblings’ cancer treatment. These are real world consequences that every single Republican in the House and the Senate is completely aware of.

We’ve been conditioned against thinking in these terms. Growing up, I listened to Barack Obama speeches that inspired a love for America as an idea. That’s what made me cringe at the thought of a shooting at a baseball practice; like churches and elementary schools, baseball is supposed to be America - a sanctuary from that kind of violence. But the propaganda of American exceptionalism clouds the truth that this country has never been a sanctuary for the poor. And while, yes, political violence is inherently wrong in a democracy, revoking tens of millions of people’s health care access to finance a tax cut for your friends is an act of political violence on a massive scale. Liberals who bemoan Trump for diminishing the institution of the presidency with his mannerisms miss the point: any Republican who stood on their primary debate stage would use the institution of the presidency to kill the poor the exact same way Trump is now. Being polite and looking regal behind a desk doesn’t make a person less of a murderer.

The fundamental issue with centrist philosophy on government is the idea that supporting bad legislation or a bad ideology doesn’t make someone a bad person. Of course it does. We correctly label a man deranged for attempting to kill five people at a baseball game, but when Congressional Republicans try to kill thousands of people every year we’re supposed to respect our political differences. This kind of willful ignorance and indifference to human suffering is the worst aspect of our political culture. Mass shooters in the last decade have made a habit of leaving manifestos behind for the police, fully explaining their motives for committing their heinous acts. Sometimes I imagine an archeologist millennia from now discovering one of these manifestos near the graves of the victims, and then finding a Republican healthcare bill near a mass grave of tens of thousands. I wonder if he’d be able to tell the difference.

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