Trumps attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare leaves Baby Boomers approaching retirement with nervous jitters
Last week, as the Senate was still trying to deny health care to 22 million fellow Americans, a friend asked me whether I would choose to live forever if I could. We were discussing Silicon Valley billionaires and their investments in new bio-technologies that they hope will enable them to do what no human has ever done: cheat death. The technology includes some dubious treatments, like being pumped with the blood of much younger people.
Both of us agreed we do not wish for immortality, though we are both extremely happy with our lives and healthy. Wanting to live forever is fundamentally selfish. Its obvious why immortality appeals to billionaires like Peter Thiel. It obviously wouldnt to the millions in the US who wont have health insurance if the Republicans pull out the vote on their bill.
Peter Thiel, the PayPal founder who is a friend of Trump, is one of the Immortalists. Lucky that he will never run out of money, especially since the Senates version of Repeal and Replace Obamacare is such a generous giveaway to the billionaire class.
The only reason its getting any Republican votes is that, as The New York Times reported a few days ago, The bills largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support.
It should be called The John Galt Bill after the hero of Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged, the doorstopper of a novel that is akin to the Bible for certain conservative politicians, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who hands out copies of the book to newly elected Members (The House version of the health care bill is even more Galtian than the Senates). Its the only book Im aware of that Donald Trump claims to have read.
Keep in mind that at her funeral in New York in 1982, Ayn Rands body lay next to the symbol she had adopted as her own – a six-foot dollar sign, according to Susan Chira who covered the service for the Times. A few years ago, The Atlas Society, which keeps the Rand flame alive, urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to unleash our inner John Galt. They must be celebrating because even they could not have come up with a more hard-hearted piece of legislation.
If the White House actually fights for the bill, it will be because it repeals the higher taxes on estates and the Medicare surcharge that helped fund President Obamas expansion of health care to cover the poor. Although he has said the House version of the bill is too mean, hes happy to see his billionaire friends evade the governments hand in their pockets. (Hey, wed certainly like to see your taxes so we can figure out how you would make out, Mr President).
In an effort to reduce the meanness of the bill somewhat, McConnell is reported to be considering something wealthy Republicans hate, preserving the Obama laws 3.8% tax on investment income in order to provide more money for combatting opioid addiction and other services to the poor. Its unclear whether that would unlock enough votes to pass a bill.
The Presidents 71st birthday a few weeks ago made him one of the oldest surviving Boomers, those of us born between 1946 and 1964, a generation that is notoriously selfish and also physically fit, (though the presidents recent photos on the golf course raise questions about the latter). In the presidents case, the typical Baby Boom self-centeredness has blossomed into a raging form of megalomania.
In 2020, the president may be running for re-election and I will be one of the many Boomers who have officially become senior citizens. More importantly, it will also be the year that the number of those over 65 will be larger than those under 5. Thats unhealthy for many reasons, not least of which is the pressure it will put on Medicare and Social Security.
The billionaire class does not need to worry, however, because their tax savings from the repeal of Obamacare, if it ever passes, will easily pay for a lifetime of concierge medicine. (Well, maybe not, if Thiels plan to live forever works out).
Since modern American politics is always a revenge cycle, one way to look at the Republican health repeal measures is as payback to Chief Justice John Roberts, who infuriated Republicans in 2012 when he sided with the US Supreme Courts four liberals to uphold the Affordable Care Act. He finessed his decision by defining the individual mandate as a tax, citing congressional power to levy taxes. Now McConnell & Co are using that same power to repeal them and make the billionaires richer.
Health care is not the only area in which supreme selfishness guides the Trump administration. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius had a strong piece on Wednesday showing many examples of other countries adopting Trumps America First mantra and adapting it to themselves.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates bully Qatar into bending to their will, as the Kurds forge on with their independence drive, both selfish moves that dont even consider how they may destabilize the rest of the region. Pulling out of multi-lateral treaties, like the Paris and Trans-Pacific accords, because Trump says they dont put US interests first is also supremely selfish, as Ignatius rightly points out.
Its no wonder theres something called Boomer Death Watch. We arent worthy of immortality. Indeed, weve already passed our sell by date.