Over and over again the attitudes of the US Republican party shock me. I just don’t get how they can even propose some of their policies, let alone enact them. From the point of view of the majority of the First World, the Republican party is simply cruel.

It doesn’t matter what area of policy we’re talking about; selfishness and greed seem to be the order of the day. Furthermore, this is the party that supposedly prides itself on its conservative morality, family values, and adherence Christian religious beliefs.

However, the area on which the Republican party prides itself the most is economic management. Their message is always that if you want to do well financially, you should vote for them. But again and again they make policy decisions that are not only deleterious to the US economy, but cruel or unfair to a sizable proportion of the population. Furthermore, almost always, a fairer policy would be better for the economy.

However, that fairer policy would not line the pockets of Republican politicians so well.

 

Healthcare

The most obvious area where this applies is healthcare. Recently, I wrote at length about what I see as the failures of healthcare policy in the US. In ‘The Benefits of a Single-Payer System‘ I outlined, among other things, the multiple economic benefits of a such a system.

The Democratic party has been trying to reform the US healthcare system so that the vulnerable don’t miss out for decades. It was one of the things Hillary Clinton was trying to do during her husband’s administration in the 1990s.

However, the proposal to establish a single-payer system in the US originally came from the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. They were proposing a single-payer system a decade before so-called Hillarycare.

There was opposition within conservative circles because many didn’t think the government should be taking that type of role. But they had a good reason for suggesting it – it would save money.

Conservative Think-Tank Says Bernie Sanders’ Healthcare Plan Saves Money

During the 2016 election campaign, another conservative think tank did an analysis of the Bernie Sanders healthcare-for-all plan. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University calculated that the Sanders plan would cost US$32.6 trillion over ten years. The Republicans said paying for it would require more than a doubling of taxes.

Cartoon: Koch Brothers attempt to scare USians with cost of BernieCare

But what they never said was that this was a more than US$2 trillion saving over what the US is currently paying in healthcare.

It was Sanders himself who made the claim of the saving, so Politifact did an analysis. They rate the claim only half true despite Sanders’ use of Mercatus’ own figures. They say there is no way of knowing what the actual result would be.

I would argue we actually have a pretty good idea. You just have to look at every other OECD country to see that the US is paying way over the odds for healthcare despite not covering everybody like other countries do. I suspect the savings would actually be higher than in the Mercatus study.

Graphic: Healthcare cost per capita US vs Rest of World

In my opinion, the reason the Republicans don’t want to change is they care more about what health insurance companies donate to their political campaigns than the millions who are suffering.

Statistics show that even Republican voters trust the Democratic party more on healthcare. I don’t think there can be any doubt that healthcare is likely to be a major issue in the 2020 elections. In my opinion, Republicans simply don’t want voters finding out how they’re currently profiting off the misery of some of their fellow USians.

 

Drug Costs

Bizarro Cartoon: Pharmacist to customer: "Your money or your life."A subset of healthcare, drug costs is a case in point. This has been in the news in the US a lot recently. The crunch came when even middle-class people were suffering. During the government shutdown, there were workers who could no longer afford their insulin, for example, and so were rationing it at the risk of their lives.

(In New Zealand, this is an unimaginable situation. The most anyone pays for insulin is $20 per year. Many pay nothing. I’m sure those from other countries with single-payer systems have similar circumstances.)

As a result, the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee is doing an investigation into drug costs. On Monday (US time) we heard that Republicans are actually telling drug companies not to cooperate with the investigation.

Buzzfeed reports:

 In an unusual move, House Republicans are warning drug companies against complying with a House investigation into drug prices.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sent letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices.

Cummings requested information from 12 drug companies such as Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis AG in January as part of a broad investigation into how the industry sets prescription drug prices.

In their letters, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows — leaders of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus — imply that Cummings may be attempting to collect the information in order to bring down the industry’s stock prices.

They write that Cummings is seeking sensitive information “that would likely harm the competitiveness of your company if disclosed publicly.” They then accuse Cummings of “releasing cherry-picked excerpts from a highly sensitive closed-door interview” conducted in an investigation into White House security clearances. “This is not the first time he has released sensitive information unilaterally,” says the letter. The authors say they “feel obliged to alert” the drug companies of Cummings’ actions.

Of course, accusing Congressman Cummings of such a dishonourable move is in itself downright insulting. On top of that, you have to wonder what the motives of the Republicans are for this move.

Cartoon: Congress sucking pig of health insurance industry

Democratic Response

On Tuesday (US time), Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-California) made a response to the Republican move on MSNBC. Raw Story reports her comments from ‘All in With Chris Hayes’.

“The American people deserve to have lower drug prices,” said Speier. “The president even said so. And so two of my Republican colleauges [sic], rather than being on the side of their constituents trying to bring down the cost of drugs, are writing kiss-letters to the pharmaceutical companies telling them to be aware of what the chairman, Mr. Cummings is doing trying to lower prices. It really shows you where the two parties are in terms of drug pricing.”

“Chairman Cummings has gone out of his way to show that he wants to cooperate,” added Speier, but “they are going for the jugular. They have no intention to work cooperatively with the chairman.”

Speier made clear the stakes of this congressional inquiry.

“Four of the top 10 [drugs] in America since 2011 have seen a price increase of 100 percent,” said Speier. “Type one diabetes insulin, again, 3-4-500 percent increases. Epipens have gone up 500 percent. So the drug manufacturers are taking advantage of the opportunity to raise prices because they fear there might be controls placed on the prices of drugs. It’s obscene … this is a ripoff of the American people.”

I can only agree with her.

 

Tax Changes

There is widespread agreement, even amongst Republicans, that the recent changes to US tax policy benefit the wealthy much more than the poor and middle class. The general consensus appears to be that 80% of the benefits from the Trump tax changes went to the top 5% of income earners. That includes, of course, himself and his family.

Whether or not you think that is fair appears to be a decision that relies on your party affiliation rather than your income. While only 21% of Democrats with an income over US$75,000 p.a. think it fair they get most of the benefits, 68% of Republicans in that income bracket are of that opinion.

More puzzling to me, a majority of Republicans on lower incomes also think it’s fair that the wealthy are benefiting more than they are.

Pew Research Center: Survey on Fairness of US Tax System

(Click graphic to go to source.)

I can’t help wondering if conservative religion plays a part in this. The idea that whether you do well or otherwise is because of God is deeply ingrained in some people. Suffering is seen as God’s will. Therefore, it’s God’s will that the wealthy are where they are.

When I was still a Christian I used to wonder what I’d done that made God want me to suffer so much. Those thoughts made everything else worse. When I realized there was no God, there was a lot less sadness in my life.

Pics of Trump supporters wearing absolutely deplorable t-shirts.

The Prosperity Gospel takes this to the extreme. A few years ago I made the (bad) decision to watch Creflo Dollar (just once!). He was telling his congregation that if they were following God’s laws and giving 10% to his church and they still weren’t prospering, then they should look at how much they were giving the church. Was it really 10% of all their income? Was it 10% of their gross income or their net income? Because it should be 10% of their income before tax.

Cartoon: Religious Right acting in an un-Christian way re money and healthcare

Immigration Policy

The reaction of the Trump administration to what’s happening at the border with Mexico is an absolute disgrace. Not so long ago, Trump was ending his own deliberate policy of separating parents and their children. Now he’s bringing it back.

Worse, he’s implementing it in a way that will put any blame for negative results on vulnerable asylum seekers. They’re to be given two choices. One: stay with your kids and take your chances. Two: Separate from your kids and maybe you’ll go through the process more quickly.

Oh, and he’s trying to blame Obama too. I’ll let Stephen Colbert of ‘The Late Show’ settle that one:

 

On top of that, he forced his head of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, to resign. Her fault? Refusing to break the law.

In a visit to border security staff, Trump also told them to break the law.

Trump’s not replacing Nielsen at this stage. Instead, alt-righter, white supremacist, and White House advisor Stephen Miller is to be given responsibility for border security.

Very dark cartoon of Miller's new responsibilities.

This is another appalling situation as a result of electing Trump. But are Republicans saying anything in protest? Stupid question really. As long as Trump’s in the White House, they have power. They’re not giving that up for something like basic human decency.

Trump’s supporters are also excusing his actions. For example, his threat to deport those who were brought to the US illegally as children and babies by their parents and have known no home but the US, has the support of many in his base. “They committed a crime by coming here,” is their mantra. The fact they had no choice in the matter seems not to concern the cult.

 

Gun Safety

It’s because of the Republican party and the close financial relationship they have with the NRA that thousands of USians die needlessly every year. In a country that’s obviously crying out for better control of guns and who can get hold of them, the Republicans go out of their way to thwart any attempt at reform.

USians die as a result of guns while politicians say things like, “Gun control regulations don’t work.” I’d like to know why they think that when they clearly work in the rest of the world?

Gun murders in US versus similarly developed countries

Four weeks ago, we had a gun massacre in New Zealand. To the shock and horror of most New Zealanders, the murderer was able to obtain the guns he used legally. A couple of days ago, changes to our laws were passed so that would no longer be possible.

In addition, magazines that hold more than ten rounds, and all equipment that could modify a gun into an automatic or semi-automatic, is also now illegal. I note that when a mass murderer made use of a bump-stock to make his gun fire like a semi-automatic in the US, lawmakers were unable to pass legislation to do the same because of (mainly) Republican opposition.

In order to try and ensure maximum compliance with the new law, the government is instituting a buy-back scheme. People can register their guns on-line with the NZ Police already, and they will contact them to arrange to collect them. This will cost many millions even in a country as small as ours. However, few are complaining; some things are more important than someone’s right to own an automatic or semi-automatic killing machine.

US political cartoonists have been making the above points for years. My collection of such cartoons on the topic is in the hundreds. There are dozens just about the relationship between the Republican party and the NRA. This is only a small selection of them:

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Environmental Policy

Pew: Partisan Divide on Global WarmingOne of the most important of the Republican party’s failures to  care for the people they govern is in the area of Environmental policy. The US Republican party is the only major political party in the developed world that denies the reality of global warming.

Democratic President Obama brought the US into line with the rest of the world. It was his actions that enabled the international agreement that led to the signing of the Paris Climate Accord. Most USians now recognize that Global Warming is a real thing, and something needs to be done about it urgently.

However, perhaps taking a cue from their political leaders, a majority of Republicans still need convincing. Going back two decades, there is plenty of evidence that senior Republican politicians used to be on board that global warming was a reality. Their change of heart appears to have come about as a result of money changing hands.

The Trump administration has been systematically reversing all of the work done by the Obama administration to try and reverse global warming. It is clear that this is being done because of the lobbying of the fossil fuel industry. Money is changing hands, whether personally, or as donations to political campaigns.

I wrote about Trump’s appalling first head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt over a year ago. His corruption forced him from office after just sixteen months. The current head, Andrew Wheeler, is still officially only acting in that position, but he’s been nominated. He’s a former lobbyist for the coal industry. Surprise, surprise.

 

Other Examples

There are obviously plenty of other areas I could go into. The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary was one of Trump’s more appalling moves. I wrote about it at the time, and her actions have shown that the education of children is not her primary motive.

As an example, one of the policies she is pushing is tax breaks for those who donate to private schools. This at a time when public schools are crying our for more funding.

Cartoon: Republican agenda for private and religious schools

There isn’t a policy area in the modern Republican party that doesn’t appear to suffer the taint of money, greed, religion (which is illegal under the constitution), Trump, or a combination of the four.

I didn’t agree with the late Republican senator John McCain on a lot, but his death last year appears to have set the party free from any pretence at morality.

The party of morality couldn’t get any more immoral if it tried.

Pic of protest sign: I'm a better Christian than any Trump supporter and I'm an atheist


 

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