The adversarial relationship between Democrats and Republicans has evolved since the election of Ronald Reagan. Market-interested Republicans are committed to limiting governance through deregulation and tax cuts. Empowerment-interested Democrats believe that government must guarantee the health, civil liberty, and consumer power of the greatest number of Americans through spending and subsidies. Democrats are pragmatic policy makers; Republicans are deductive policy makers. Democrats are evidence-guided; Republicans are doctrine-guided.
But both have a cognitive problem. They think their interests are opposed; when in fact, they are complementary. Republicans want profits from selling goods and services, whereas Democrats want the greatest number of Americans to buy the goods and services sold on the market. Both fail to see that the convergence of their respective interests is correlative rather than adversarial.
However, in 2017 Republicans added a new strategy to their tool box of lobbying, campaign contribution manipulation, voter suppression, gerrymandering, and old fashioned election contests. They moved from implementing ideological policies through constitutional means to implementing policies that hurt the people Democrats want to empower. They instituted policies of domestic cruelty.
On July 1, 2017, Coral Davenport of The New York Times reported that EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, has been working diligently to “disable” the authority of the agency charged with protecting the nation’s air, water, and public health. Using war metaphors, Pruitt told coal miners, “It’s sad that a regulatory body of the government of the United States would declare a war on any part of our economy… The regulatory assault is over.”
Mr. Pruitt, with the blessing of Donald Trump, has sought to weaken climate change regulations, repeal rules curbing pollution in the nation’s waterways, delay implementation of rules that require fossil fuel companies to rein in leaks of methane from oil and gas wells, put off the date by which companies must comply with a rule to prevent explosions and spills at chemical plants, and reverse a ban on the use of a pesticide that the EPA’s own scientists have said is linked to the damage of children’s nervous systems.
Davenport reports that instead of relying on the expertise of career civil servants in the EPA, Mr. Pruitt has farmed out his policy research to a network of lawyers, lobbyists, and the Republican Attorneys General Association funded by Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Murray Energy, and Southern Company. Under Pruitt, the EPA has been captured by market interests who are using it to hurt people.
Concurrently, the American Health Care Act (AHC) that passed in Paul Ryan’s House hurts people in order to pave the way for a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. On March 13, 2017, the Congressional Budget Office Estimate confirmed that Ryan’s AHC reduces outlays for Medicaid and eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) subsidies for non-group health insurance. The AHC repeals (1) the increase in the Hospital Insurance payroll tax rate for high-income taxpayers; (2) the surtax on high income taxpayers’ net investment income; (3) the annual fees imposed on health insurers; and (4) the establishment of a new tax credit for health insurance.
By 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the AHC legislation than under the current law. “Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate,” according to the CBO Report. Between 2018 and 2026 the CBO anticipates further reductions in insurance coverage due in large part from changes in Medicaid enrollment. In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under the Affordable Care Act.
CBO estimates that the AHC will decrease direct Medicaid spending by $880 billion over the 2017-2026 period. “That reduction would stem primarily from lower enrollment throughout the period, culminating in 14 million fewer Medicaid enrollees by 2026, a reduction of about 17 percent relative to the number under the current law.”
Moreover, “Under the legislation, premiums for older people could be five times larger than those for younger people in many states, but the size of the tax credits for older people would only be twice the size of the credits for younger people.”
The AHC also prevents federal funding of Planned Parenthood and any other program that is: “(1) a nonprofit organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the code; (2) an essential community provider that is primarily engaged in providing family planning and reproductive health services and related medical care; (3) an entity that provides abortions—except in instances in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest or the woman’s life is in danger; and (4) an entity that had expenditures under the Medicaid program that exceeded $350 million in fiscal year 2014.”
These executive and legislative policies of domestic cruelty are the work of public servants who took an oath to the Constitution that seeks a “more perfect union.” Creating policies of domestic cruelty is a violation of that oath. Those policies are threats to the personal and environmental health of Americans. They also impair the right of all Americans to consume the goods and services offered by a market economy to the extent of their financial ability.
Will Democrats ask themselves: “Can we come up with a counter-strategy before millions of Americans are victimized by policies of domestic cruelty?”
Bill Daniels practices law and mediation in Monterey. He has previously written for Truthout and the WIP.