Distilling the Healthcare Wars

Populism, faux populism, and white populism

Paul Krugman zeroes in on the mirage underlying the healthcare wars. Trump rallied white working class voters with a faux populist head fake: he said he would improve healthcare by dismantling Obamacare, but he’s planning to cut the taxes on the wealthy that made the whole thing work. So now, US working class whites are going to learn a hard truth:

Obamacare helped a large number of people at the expense of a small, affluent minority: basically, taxes on 2% of the population to cover a lot of people and assure coverage to many more. Trumpcare would reverse that, hurting a lot of people (many of whom voted Trump) so as to cut taxes for a handful of wealthy people. That’s a difference that goes beyond political strategy.

But one way to say this is that Obamacare was and is a truly populist law, while Trumpcare is anti-populist. That’s reflected in the legislative struggles.

And yet, and yet: Trump did in fact win over white working-class voters, who thought they were voting for a populist; Democrats, who did a lot for those voters, got no credit — rural whites, in particular, who were huge beneficiaries of the ACA, overwhelmingly supported the man who may destroy their healthcare.

The working class whites who thought the GOP was going to just cut benefits to ‘those people’ are going to find out that they are ‘those people’ to the GOP and the plutocrats getting the tax breaks. To the most wealthy, the world is divided between the rich and everyone else, not between white and brown.

Maybe the Republican coalition won’t hold, though. There are too many moderate Republicans in the House who are disinclined to push millions of registered voters (ok, human beings) off the healthcare rolls to benefit the wealthy, and too many ultraconservatives who still are dreaming of drowning the federal government in the bathtub, and cutting even more — maybe all — Americans out of government-based healthcare.

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Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

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