Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”? Maybe yes and maybe know. Over the years I’ve read articles claiming that it was Benjamin Franklin . . . or Mark Twain . . . or writer Rita Mae Brown in her 1984 novel Sudden Death who was the creator of record. Regardless of who birthed the truism one must admit that it is both clever and spot-on. Seeing as major league baseball is back in season (Hallelujah!) we can give the following example of Einstein’s “razor”: the general manager of a team which came in dead last in the previous 3 seasons opens the next season with precisely the same roster yet expects to make it to the World Series. This is, of course, utter insanity.

Another prime example - this from the world of politics - would be ‘45’s decision to launch yet another full-scale assault on the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) the day after declaring himself totally exonerated by the Mueller investigation. (n.b. until the full report is turned over to Congress and the public, ‘45 is jumping the gun; A.G. Barr’s 4 page Cliff Notes version of the Special Counsel’s 400+ page report obviously doesn’t say much of anything. It’s akin to summarizing Dostoevsky’s massive Crime and Punishment in a single sentence: A super broke college dropout becomes convinced that the universe is telling him to kill a pawnbroker because that’s what great men do — which he does, but eventually confesses to at the urging of an extremely Christian prostitute.)

‘45’s renewed interest in healthcare comes on the heels of his administration’s announcement this past week that it supported a conservative judge’s December ruling to wipe out Obamacare completely, based on a technicality involving the individual mandate, which Sir Donald of Orange already has eliminated. “If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we will have a plan that is far better than Obamacare,” POTUS said Wednesday, a day after declaring that “the Republican Party will soon be known as the party of healthcare.” Why in the world he has once again returned the total dismemberment of Obamacare to center stage (without having the faintest idea what he’s going to replace it with) is anyone’s guess. Several possible answers come to mind:

  • Perhaps it’s because the man is utterly obsessed with uprooting and destroying every vestige of his predecessor’s record.

  • Perhaps it’s because he is nuttier than a fruitcake or that when it comes to retail politics, the man is stunningly tone deaf.

  • Perhaps he is catering to his base - the only folks left in American society who can feed his ego . . . the men, women and children wearing those red “MAGA” hats and endlessly shouting out “LOCK HER/HIM/THEM UP!!” If this is the case, it would mean that in his self-deluded state he believes that so long as he can hold on to their votes, he can easily be reelected.

  • Perhaps he’s once again proving to himself and the world what he claimed on January 23, 2016: "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, OK? It’s, like, incredible.”

  • Perhaps by reviving the “Obamacare is evil and therefore must go” meme, he is revealing a central focus of his 2020 campaign: that all Democrats are Socialists intent on nothing less than the total destruction of America.

What ‘45 and his cabal don’t seem to understand is that a majority of the American public supports the ACA, especially provisions which debar health insurance companies from charging higher rates to those with preexisting conditions and permits younger Americans to continue being covered by their parents’ healthcare plans until age 26. Nor do they seem to grasp that the single-most important issue which caused them to lose the House this past November was healthcare. Why the president, his advisers and Department of Justice would once again pick a fight they just lost is beyond reason. So far, leading Republicans on Capitol Hill have shown little desire to make themselves into - in the president’s words - “The party of healthcare.”

“We’re coming up with plans,” Trump said ambiguously this past Wednesday, just as he’s been saying for years. Yet neither he nor any other Republican has come up with a viable healthcare plan that would cover as many people as Obamacare or offer people as much protection. That’s not fake news. That’s just a fact. And here’s another fact: if Obamacare goes, at least 20 million Americans will once again be without health insurance. Out of necessity, they will have to go to emergency rooms to receive care . . . and this is the most costly form of healthcare ever devised.

POTUS has appointed and anointed 3 senators (John Barrasso (R-WY), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Rick Scott (R-FL)—to come up with a plan. (It should be noted that former FL governor Scott refused to permit a single federal dollar to enter his state to help expand Medicaid and, as the one-time CEO of Columbia/HCA, the hospital company was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud.) One wonders what sort of proposal they’re going to come up with. For many Republican congressional leaders, they’ve urged the White House to come up with their own proposal . . . and not rely upon the Republican-led senate. In other words, GOP legislators are scared to death about having to defend “Trumpcare” in 2020.

Living as we do in a world and a time where political conspiracies are as commonplace as a beer at a ballgame, permit me to spin one myself. What if ‘45’s mega-wealthy “friends” and supporters have simply become fed up with him and convinced him that destroying Obamacare from stem to stern (or from brain to big toe) is the best way of assuring overwhelming victory in 2020. They know how stupid he is; they understand both his naivete and his narcissism; they cannot afford to be identified with him . . . he is simply not one of them. So what to do? Convince him to take over leadership of a cause which stands the best chance of putting him out of their misery.

There is some evidence to support the theory of billionaires turning their backs on ‘45 so that he won’t be reelected. Already this year, we’ve seen the Koch brothers - Charles & David - publicly announce that they will neither support nor spend a single dime on ‘45’s reelection. Instead, they will be putting their time, energy and vast financial resources (and those of their contributing network) behind those who advocate for establishing permanent legal status for “Dreamers” (undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children), as well as on gubernatorial and congressional races, prioritizing issues including poverty and drug addiction. 

And so, at least on the political surface - and for whatever reason - the president has given the Democrats a remarkable gift . . . just so long as they remain reasonably unified, coalesce around a candidate who can win, and keep their eyes on the prize. Even with this remarkable “gift that keeps on giving,” the Democrats do have a historic tendency to shoot themselves in the foot.

Stand tall, act wisely and please, please . . . remember how much is at stake. A gift box left unopened is a more than sad. Several gift boxes left unopened is . . . in the words of Einstein, (or Franklin or Twain or Rita Mae Brown) insanity.

583 days until the next election.

Copyright©2019 Kurt F. Stone