Dusty Nix

Decency prevails in healthcare battle – for now

Thumbs down.

By the paper-thin margin of one profoundly principled and seriously ailing man — as fitting a metaphor for this Congress of Dementors as could be imagined — the latest version of “health” “care” “reform” wheezed its last and crumpled to the Senate floor.

It doesn’t even merit a decent burial. It should be chained to a cinderblock and dropped in the Potomac, except that it’s so putrid it would pollute the whole Chesapeake watershed.

John McCain, who came back to work last week after being diagnosed with brain cancer, made his vote known with one of our two most familiar single-finger hand gestures — the appropriate one for a prominent United States government official. (His sense of decorum clearly has not spread to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.)

President Donald Trump lauded McCain as an “American hero” last week for casting a vote to vote on this. The belated promotion must have been a really meaningful one for McCain, whose sacrifices in Vietnam candidate Trump famously dismissed with “I like people that weren't captured, OK?"

As of this writing, there was no word on whether the commander in chief had busted the Arizona senator back down to non-hero status.

Liberals tend to get giddy, and often delusional, about McCain just because he hasn’t contaminated the core values of conservatism with the unabashed meanness, Bible-pounding hucksterism, naked greed and self-interested callousness that have eroded the moral foundation of his party, and he speaks out against some of its grossest excesses. (He doesn’t condemn them all; there are just so many hours in a day.)

We’ll get to the delusional political stupidity of liberals and Democrats in another column. It’s vast and fertile ground. The point here is that McCain is no fan of the Affordable Care Act; he voted as he did because, as he tweeted, the Republican bill “fell short of our promise to repeal & replace Obamacare w/meaningful reform.”

Georgia’s own Rep. Tom Price sent out a news release after the vote saying Congress must “rescue the families caught up in Obamacare’s death spiral.”

More on that in a moment.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, if the “skinny repeal” in this bill became law, the number of uninsured people would increase by 15 million next year. (Never mind the 24 million who were supposed to lose coverage over the next 10 years under previous versions of “reform.”) Increases in premiums for people buying private insurance, according to CBO estimates, would be about 20 percent.

The bill removed the ACA requirement for health coverage, with no incentive for people to buy it. It removed the requirement for large businesses to offer health insurance to employees, and according to the New York Times, “made it much easier for states to waive federal requirements that health insurance plans provide consumers with a minimum set of benefits like maternity care and prescription drugs [and] eliminated funds provided by the Affordable Care Act for a wide range of prevention and public health programs.”

Death spiral, did you say?

Congressional Republicans are now crammed together in the shrinking corner they have painted themselves into over seven years of railing against a health plan they unanimously opposed, most of them for one historically condemnable reason: their utter loathing of Barack Obama.

Now they’re having to face the very real political consequences of yanking away the very real human protections and benefits of a law they call a disaster. Just how many votes can you count on from the moguls whose tax cuts will be paid for by cutting off millions of people’s health insurance?

More than a few senators have acknowledged getting assurances it would never become law as a condition of voting for the “Health Care Freedom Act.” (Is there any political bill, no matter how toxic, destructive, punitive, cruel, corrupt or self-serving, that doesn’t get a coat of cheap rhetorical paint slapped on it?) One of said senators was Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who called it “terrible policy and horrible politics” … before voting for it. That’s having your cake as long as nobody has to eat it.

McCain’s thumbs-down is the perfect ironic rebuke to this particular act of political vileness. Like the Roman emperors who (in legend if not in fact) callously and casually condemned losers in gladiatorial combat, this Congress could, and still very well might, condemn millions of Americans to economic and physical devastation.

But then, disdain for “losers” is the new American way.

Dusty Nix, 706-571-8528; dnix@ledger-enquirer.com.