Clarence Fanto | Failing Legislature is a pre-existing condition, but our fate is in its hands

LENOX — You've gotta love the Trump kids. They make their dad look almost like a statesman. LOL.

Donald Jr. salivated over the prospect of learning about Hillary Clinton's allegedly criminal misdeeds from a representative of a hostile government. Bring it on, he enthused, before he was disappointed to learn that the Kremlin attorney had nothing on Hillary, because there was nothing to be had.

He's not guilty of treason in the legal sense, as Clinton running mate Tim Kaine suggested might be the case. But there's much to suggest something reflecting a collusiony attitude in the Trump inner circle.

Hard-core defenders may argue that Junior was either ignorant or stupid. In a blistering editorial, the right-wing New York Post called him an idiot. But his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort certainly knew what they were doing when they took the meeting with the Russian agent. After all, Trump Sr. has indicated he would have attended, that many politicians would have done so. Just part of business as usual in the corrupt world of politics, the president claims.

You may have missed what Donald Jr.'s brother Eric had to say last month about Democrats who support the multiple investigations into what his father's campaign did to help Russia tilt the election.

Appearing with Trump lackey Sean Hannity on Fox, here's what Eric said about the president's opponents:

"I've never seen hatred like this, and to me they're not even people. It's so, so sad, I mean morality is just gone, morals have flown out the window we deserve so much better than this as a country. You know it's so sad. You see the Democratic party — they're imploding. They're imploding. They have no message. You see the head of the DNC who is a total whack job. There's no leadership there. They have no message so what do they try and do? They try and obstruct a great man, they try and obstruct his family, they come after us viciously, and it's truly, truly horrible."

Of course, the opposition, or the resistance as some call it, gives as good as it gets from the "great man" and his sycophants.

I wish I had thought up this line: "The news is real. The president is fake."

It was horror novelist Stephen King who sent that out on Twitter last week. He knows a horror show when he sees one.

But as a wise friend counseled the other day, we're stuck with Trump and his administration at least until 2020, thanks to the Capitol Hill Republicans who demonstrate their profiles in cowardice every day. Enablers, most of them, with some refreshing exceptions — Collins, McCain, Graham, Murkowski, Portman, several more.

The top priority now for the landslide-majority of Americans who oppose Trump and everything he stands for is to make sure that all his horrific domestic proposals fail — crucially, the latest Senate reboot of the health care "reform" that offers some carrots to Republicans on the fence but retains the cuts to Medicaid for low-income Americans, the disabled, and a majority of nursing home patients who exhaust their own financial resources.

Fortunately, the revised bill trotted out this past week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got a chilly reception from his fellow Republicans, bringing the proposal within a single vote of potential collapse, as the Wall Street Journal reported.

It's unclear that McConnell can even muster the necessary 50 votes plus Pence to begin debate on the misbegotten measure, which doesn't dismantle enough of the Affordable Care Act — former President Obama's greatest achievement despite its correctable flaws — to suit hard-right members.

Moderates remain dismayed by the reductions in Medicaid over the next decade, as compared to the current law. It's a needle even master magician McConnell may be unable to thread.

The most conservative senator, libertarian Rand Paul of Kentucky, and the most centrist, Susan Collins of Maine, won't vote to allow debate to begin — at least that was their position at week's end. It will take only one more Republican to snuff out the proposal and send it to a well-deserved grave.

Then, an unspeakable horror as McConnell has warned: Republicans might have to sit down with the dreaded Democrats — "not even people," per Eric Trump — and forge a consensus plan that addresses the problems in Obama's law, most of which were created by Republican sabotage over the past seven years.

The individual mandate requiring Americans to carry health coverage must be kept in order to make insurance markets function properly. As I've stated in the past, mandatory auto insurance is accepted as vital, even though driving is a privilege and medical care must be considered a right for all citizens, regardless of their means.

The current Senate bill does include $45 billion to fight the opioid crisis, which killed more Americans last year (59,000) than died in the entire Vietnam war. And it keeps the 0.9 percent payroll tax and 3.8 percent tax on investment income — both reserved for individuals with incomes above $200,000 and married couples making over $250,000.

But, apart from gutting Medicaid, the plan incorporates Sen. Ted Cruz's bizarre provision offering cheap, bare-bones policies that would cost less in monthly premiums for anyone foolish enough to buy them, while raising premiums, co-pays and deductibles to unaffordable levels for older Americans under 65 and those with pre-existing conditions.

There's even a poison pill for hospitals, such as Berkshire Medical Center, that serve a majority of low-income patients. They now get extra funding to help cover those who are uninsured, or under-insured. But that would disappear in states like Massachusetts that expanded Medicaid (MassHealth). States that didn't increase Medicaid spending would be "rewarded" by getting to keep the extra federal funding for some hospitals.

This will be a crucial week that will affect nearly all Americans' ability to afford quality health care. Let's hope a handful of courageous Republicans do the right thing and set the stage for a bipartisan health plan compromise we can all live with.

Reach Clarence Fanto at The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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