Has Trump surrendered to the immortality of government checks?
Much like the ancient Egyptians, who carved the length of the Sun God's golden arm into the Cubit Stone* and decreed that all the empire's measurements must derive from it, our career politicians measure all legislation against a rule that states that anyone already receiving a government check must continue to receive it. Forever.
This is why the government keeps reinsuring and reinsuring and paying for (and paying for again) the destroyed luxury beachfront properties built on hurricane-bait sandbars a mile offshore. It's why when we know that subsidizing single mothers leads to horrendous social pathologies, we ignore their behavior and continue to send them checks. Then more checks.
And of course, it was exactly with this standard of guaranteed entitlements that Paul Ryan began, he said, to "repeal" Obamacare – that is, by insisting that the twenty million people having health care premiums paid by Obamacare are untouchable. There is a program to give poor people medical coverage called Medicaid, but that's neither here nor there. There's an underground economy in this country that in toto may be greater than the entire economy of Japan, and a huge chunk of these people invisibly draw some or all of their income from that source, but that's neither here nor there. And the appalling truth that while twenty million may have gained coverage, a far greater number of working people lost it by having their deductibles jump to $5,000 or $10,000 or more, money they don't have, is neither here nor there, either.
Even the fact that few of these twenty million recipients voted Republican in the last election doesn't matter.
Because almost every politician believes that he could paint giant Dukes of Hazzard-style Confederate flags on the top of their government limousines and expose themselves to the next group of Iowa high school girls touring the Capitol rotunda and still stand a better chance of surviving politically than they would if they took someone's check away. Anyone's check. Because do it – vote to take school lunch money away from parents who make over $250,000 a year – and they'll be accused of starving kids. Vote to defund Planned Parenthood, and they'll be accused of denying vulnerable women vital medical services. Vote to defund the going nowhere in their sustainable energy research government-supported algae farms, and they'll be accused of being in the pay of big oil. And so on.
Better not to try. Besides, it's not as though they're giving their own money away.
And so, in Washington's Looney-Tunes world, once someone gets a government check, it's locked in. Even those millionaires building their beachfront homes in Hurricane Alley. Indeed, they stand about as much chance of being defunded as Congress itself.
But here's the sad part – a tragedy, really. Donald J. Trump is not a politician – it's why we elected him. He didn't have to get behind Paul Ryan's insane plan to tweak Obamacare just enough that he and the Republican Party would wind up owning that disaster. President Trump could have just stuck with his campaign trail arguments and advocated a free market in health care and, maybe in that way, killed the beast outright. He could even have elected to do nothing and let Obamacare implode.
But he didn't.
And this despite the fact that the worst that could happen was that at the end of four years, he'd be living back in his gold-encrusted four-story penthouse in the sky.
* Yes, this is the source of the biblical measurement and, at something like a yard, probably the origin of Imperial Measurements – and so (more or less) the system used by the only nation able put a man on the Moon. You should make this point when your ten-year-old son or daughter comes home all in a tizzy about the new and much more modern and logical metric system the teacher is pushing.