Kuhner's Corner: Paul Ryan, Trump's enemy
Is Paul Ryan trying to sabotage Donald Trump’s presidency? That question must now be asked in the wake of Ryancare.
The House Speaker’s health care bill to replace Obamacare is being called many things—Obamacare 2.0, Obamacare-lite, Rinocare or increasingly Ryancare. Whatever name is given to it, the bill is a poisoned chalice: Trump drinks it at his peril.
If the bill becomes law, it will be forever known as Trumpcare. And it will destroy his administration, ensuring he is a one-term president. His base will fracture; conservatives will overwhelmingly reject it; and Trump voters will rightly feel betrayed. This is why the president’s growing support for it is puzzling and ominous.
Ryan’s plan is nothing more than watered-down Obamacare. At its core, it creates—or rather, perpetuates—a massive health care entitlement. Instead of subsidies, it provides refundable tax credits, whereby millions of Americans will receive $14,000 checks from the federal government to purchase health insurance. Like Obamacare, Ryan’s American Health Care Act has the government give Americans public money to pay for their health care. It’s simply more Big Government by another name.
And here is the first major problem with Ryancare: We can’t afford it. The United States has a $20 trillion debt; we are slowly sliding toward bankruptcy. The federal government simply does not have the money to write $14,000 checks to countless Americans. The whole plan is political fantasy masquerading as entitlement reform.
Moreover, illegal immigrants will be able to access the refundable tax credits. Ryancare has no enforcement mechanisms to detect and crackdown on document fraud—especially, phony Social Security numbers that are used by numerous illegal aliens to acquire welfare benefits. In other words, under Ryan’s bill law-abiding U.S. taxpayers will be subsidizing the health care of millions of illegals. This alone should disqualify his monstrosity.
Ryancare also maintains the individual mandate. The only difference, however, is that instead of paying a penalty or tax to the government if one doesn’t have insurance, the penalty is paid to the private insurance company. Ryan’s bill insists that any individual who initially refuses to buy insurance and then later seeks to re-enter the insurance market must pay a hefty fee—with the money from the penalty going to the insurance firm, not Uncle Sam. This provision is not only statist coercion, but probably unconstitutional.
Finally, the bill provides a $100 million bailout fund for the major health insurance companies. Ryan says this is necessary to guarantee the “stability” of the insurance markets. In reality, it is another taxpayer-subsidized giveaway to line the pockets of his big donors. Ryancare perpetuates Washington’s culture of corruption.
In other words, Obamacare-lite keeps all of the worst aspects of Obamacare—the subsidies, the mandate, the bailouts—while failing to drive down soaring health care costs and sky-rocketing premiums. It is a disaster with one key difference: Now the Republicans will own it rather than the Democrats. Obamacare is imploding; it is crumbling underneath the crushing weight of its burdensome regulations and complex, Byzantine state exchanges. It is unsustainable and will likely collapse by the end of this year.
It is better for the GOP to do nothing—literally, nothing—and let Obamacare die a natural death than to impose Ryancare. The reason is obvious: Obamacare belongs to the Democrats. They rammed it through Congress and down the throats of the American people in the face of unanimous Republican opposition. Hence, the unraveling of Obamacare cannot be laid at the GOP’s feet.
Yet, Ryan is attempting to pull the Democrats’ chestnuts from the fire. By passing his plan, Republicans—and especially, Trump—will be blamed for all of the flaws of Obamacare-lite: the relentless rise in premiums, the preservation of a massive entitlement program that does not work and we cannot afford, millions losing their health insurance coverage and the continued chaos in our health care system.
For Trump, Ryancare will do something even worse. It will trigger disillusionment among many of his supporters. Trump—and the GOP—campaigned on fully repealing and replacing Obamacare. This bill doesn’t even come close to fulfilling that seminal promise. In fact, it is a betrayal, a complete abandonment of what Republicans had been promising for years.
Trump would be wise to listen to Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican. He is urging that the GOP pass a complete repeal, and then back a free market-based replacement plan similar to the ideas Trump championed during the election—allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines, expanding health savings accounts and significant tort reform. This would truly create a market system that is patient-centered, substantially reduces costs, provides more consumer choice, increases competition and allows for access to affordable, quality health care. It is a silver bullet if the Republicans are only willing to pull the trigger.
Ryancare will most likely die. It simply does not have the votes either in the House or the Senate. Tea Party conservatives, such as Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz or Rep. Jim Jordan, will not support it. Ryan has been telling Trump the bill has broad Republican support. He is either delusional or lying. Either way, Ryan is leading the president down a dangerous road.
And this begs the question: Does Ryan really have Trump’s—and America’s—best interests at heart? Breitbart recently released a secret audio tape, whereby Ryan in a private conversation several weeks before the election is heard telling House Republican members that he will no longer “now” or “in the future” defend Trump. Ryan’s hatred is clear and palpable. To some extent, it should come as no surprise. Ryan opposes Trump’s populist-nationalism.
Yet, it goes deeper than that. Ryan is more than a RINO globalist, who believes in amnesty, open borders and free trade. He is the champion of the venal Washington establishment. He represents the GOP’s donor-class, Chamber of Commerce financial elites. He has also taken campaign money from groups linked to socialist billionaire George Soros. The powerful interests behind Ryan want nothing more than to reduce Trump’s presidency to rubble. What better way than to saddle him with an albatross around his neck—Ryancare being the obvious case in point.
Ryan is not an ally of Trump or his supporters, but an enemy. The president needs to realize this—and soon. Or else, Trump will find out the hard way that, in Washington, those professing to be your friends are the ones you should fear the most.
-Jeffrey T. Kuhner is host of “The Kuhner Report” on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.