Or at the very least trying really, REALLY hard to…
Last Tuesday it looked as if President Donald Trump had finally made “the pivot” that so many pundits have talked about in his speech to the joint session of Congress.
But then this happened…
And this didn’t help matters either…
Yet as President Trump squanders all the political capitol he had gained that week, his administration (along with Congressional Republicans) hope to reframe two crucial issues this week: immigration and healthcare. Here’s how they’re trying to reframe both issues.
A Shift of Emphasis from International to Domestic Policies
During his speech last Tuesday night, President Trump tried to make a case that the US should focus more on domestic matters rather than dealing with international ones. One of President Trump’s favorite lines on the subject is that the US has spent $6 trillion on the Middle East in which he then goes on to assume that “we could have built our country twice.” This stat is actually one of his favorite figures to cite, even dating back to the 2016 presidential campaign.
So just an FYI, the current US GDP is around $74 trillion. President Donald Trump’s assessments on the US spending $6 trillion on the Middle East would mean the federal government spends almost 8% annual GDP on the Middle East alone!! So the stat he’s stating is not only untrue, but completely ridiculous!
From the research we’ve found anyway, President Trump is most likely taking the super high-end estimates regarding the Middle East totals, along with some real skeptical math. Base on academic estimates, up to this fiscal year, the US spent around $3.6 trillion on military engagement in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria. Now if you were to add the various health care costs on veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, that would add another one trillion to the total. So at best, the total spent on the Middle East would be around $4.6 trillion at most. Which by all means is quite a sum, but nowhere near the amount President Trump has been touting for the past year.
The same goes for his stance on immigration.
During President Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress, President Trump said that enforcing immigration laws will help the country “raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.” For the Trump administration, focusing the high costs of illegal immigration would be a smart move because estimating its costs is almost impossible. So when President Trump puts out monetary numbers on the subject, it’s almost impossible to determine their validity.
Yet, the framing of President Trump’s “America First” policy hasn’t always been accepted by the public with open arms (see President Trump’s Original Travel Ban for proof). But by trying to frame foreign engagement – whether that be through immigration policy or international relations – as a monetary problem, the Trump administration is hoping to change the public’s perception of the issue. While President Trump’s numbers are incredibly inflated (or flat-out wrong), America’s international engagement isn’t cheap. The big numbers with very little context is what President Trump hopes the American public will focus on.
The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is Failing
The Trump administration – along with Congressional Republicans – have said for a while that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has been a disaster to US health policy and has to be replaced. The mob of angry town hall constituents from Republican districts are going against that narrative however.
While there are very real problems with the ACA – the number of insurers leaving state marketplaces is most definitely a concern – saying it’s about to collapse is incredibly disingenuous. One of the Trump administration’s biggest arguments against the ACA revolves around its rising premiums. During his speech in the joint session of Congress, President Trump had stated that the ACA premiums had increased by double and triple digits. But once again, his figures aren’t telling the whole story.
As many healthcare policy experts have noted, while the average ACA premiums did rise significantly in 2017 (around 25%), on average, health insurance premiums raised faster prior to the years that the ACA had been enacted. By in large, they would argue that healthcare premiums are increasing at a lower rate than before, especially if you’re getting your healthcare from your employer where premiums have remained generally stable.
Yet the biggest goal of the ACA was to create insurance programs that covered as many people as possible. A big problem with the plans Republicans have put forth in terms of replacing the ACA is that the proposed plans can’t cover as many people as the ACA already does. For the Republicans and the Trump administration, that’s an element of the ACA they’re desperately trying to pivot from. They’re hoping to bring the conversation toward “cutting the cost” of healthcare rather than focus on coverage the ACA provides.
But considering the protests happening in the GOP town halls, it looks to be a hard sell.
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