Who Caves?

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump’s actions of last week are discussed in many places, among others the waiting room of a doctor’s office where I had to spend some time Friday afternoon. Trump had no fans in that room, and the conversation jumped from issue to issue: his childish distorting of the crowd size at his inauguration and his insane suggestion that between three and five million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton, his calling the press, with the exception of Fox News and Breitbart, the ‘most dishonest people on earth,’ his executive order to initiate the building of a wall on the Mexican border, and his at that point just announced ban on immigrants from a number of Muslim countries, including Syrian refugees.  It was too much to cover, and at some point one of the women in the room said: “You have to focus your resistance on a few things, trusting others to resist his other policies and support them as much as you can, because you cannot take on his whole agenda, which not only threatens American institutions like voting rights and a free press but also the planet.”

She had a point, so I’m focusing on ‘the Wall’ and the Muslim ban, as well as health care, entitlement programs and infrastructure policies, because these are issues where Trump and the Republicans in Congress don’t necessarily see eye to eye.  Until Trump became the GOP nominee both his intention to build the wall and the Muslim ban have been thoroughly criticized by Republicans, the former for practical and the latter for principled reasons, but on both issues Republicans in the House have already caved.  The wall will be built with American taxpayer money, and Muslims from seven countries have been banned with the full support of Speaker Paul Ryan.  The question is if the Republicans in Congress will get something in return from Trump.  In an executive order on health care he instructed that Obamacare be repealed and replaced, for which both the House and the Senate took the first steps, but during the campaign Trump also emphasized that nobody would lose coverage and that he would replace Obamacare with ‘something better.’

That is not the intention of Tom Price, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, who as a congressman for years has peddled a plan that would take health care away from the most vulnerable Americans and mostly benefit the category of doctors that he himself belongs to.  Price consistently speaks about the right to have ‘access to health care,’ meaning that those who can afford it can buy coverage, and those who cannot, not.

So when it comes to healthcare, either Trump or Price will have to cave.  With regards to Social Security and Medicare, it is Paul Ryan’s life’s mission to dismantle and privatize these programs, which would lead to a massive reduction in benefits.  Trump, however, has promised that he would leave them untouched, so it’s either he or Ryan who will cave here.

On infrastructure, finally, Trump has promised a trillion dollar investment to rebuild America, but Republicans in Congress have opposed similar spending all through the Obama years.  It would be good for the US if they caved here, but probably not for Paul Ryan’s career.

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