Naked Class Interests: The Battle To Repeal And Replace Obamacare

03/15/2017 10:56 am ET Updated Mar 15, 2017
Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Let’s call it for what it is – naked class aggression. This is what the Republican House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare is all about. At least the one good thing about the bill is that it lays bare any pretense that Trump or the House Republican leadership actually cares about the working class individuals who voted for them.

Obamacare was flawed legislation. Yet it did insure millions of more people, including those in red states and among the white working-class who voted Republican. It had elements of economic redistribution in that it channeled valuable health care resources to those with less wealth, at the expense of those who were more affluent. Longer term Obamacare will produce some efficiencies and savings by reducing national GDP spending on health care and by making the U.S. a more fair society. Maybe not necessary a pro-working class bill, but by diverting more resources toward the less affluent it better served lower class interests than the then status quo did.

None of that can be said about the House bill. The Congressional Budget Office estimate that 24 million people will lose health care coverage demonstrates that. So does Speaker Paul Ryan’s defense of the bill emphasizing the deficit reduction and savings for the rich that come from their bill while ignoring the insurance losses for the rest of society. Otherwise everyone–the poor, working class, Trump voters, people of color, the young and elderly–lose. For the top 1 percent, it is terrific.

It would have been bad enough if Congress had done nothing more than repeal Obamacare, as it did so 50-plus times over the last few years. But it goes further than returning America to status quo ante Obamacare; it uses the occasion to make even more cuts to the health care social safety net. If all of this is not naked class aggression, I don’t know what it is.

Moving forward, the legislative battles over replacing Obamacare will produce two interesting phenomena worth watching. First, what will Democrats do? Can and will they be able to use class-based arguments to recapture working class voters lost to the Republicans and, if so, how will this play out moving into the 2018 midterm congressional elections? In effect, are Democrats willing to play the class card and fight back?

Second, the effort to repeal is demonstrating divisions within the business community. There is not a united front among businesses regarding the desirability of repealing and replacing Obamacare. The health care industry is opposed, but who is supporting the repeal and will they be powerful enough to prevail? Which set of interests will the Republicans listen to and will the divisions within corporate America on this issue allow for further opportunities weaken the Trump coalition and stall other policy changes? This battle over health care will set the tone for the rest of the Trump administration and the agenda for the Democratic Party and politics for the next four years.

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