“What is the best way to decimate a community? Deny its people access to healthcare.”
“What is the best way to decimate a community? Shut down its largest employer.”
These questions were asked and answered by Tim Egan, CEO of Chicago’s Roseland Community Hospital, last Sunday, January 15, as he opened his comments at a rally to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) against the GOP’s ongoing efforts to repeal it. Hosted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at its Chicago headquarters, the rally included such heavy-hitting speakers as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, among others who shared their personal testimonies of how the ACA has literally saved their lives and how its repeal would certainly put their lives in danger.
Egan’s speech was particularly compelling because it highlighted the GOP’s hypocrisy when it comes to both improving the lives of average citizens and fostering fertile conditions for business. The Republicans like to represent themselves as the party with policies that help people by serving the interests of business, believing that policies that facilitate businesses by cutting taxes and eliminating regulations will improve the economy overall and create jobs, thus helping America’s working-class majority, regardless of how low-wage the jobs might be. Speaking as a corporate CEO, though, and not one of the American masses Republicans typically ignore, Egan made plain and clear that from the corporate perspective repealing the ACA would be devastating for business as well as people, threatening the very existence of his hospital, a primary employer in the Roseland community, not to mention millions of lives.
In her comments, Schakowsky emphatically reiterated this reality that GOP policies are neither pro-business nor pro-people, pointing out that if Republicans repeal the ACA, Illinois is projected to lose 117,000 jobs in 2019 and 33 billion dollars in federal funding between 2019 and 2022, a devastating blow to an already faltering Illinois economy Rauner has done nothing positive to improve. Highlighting GOP hypocrisy, Schakowsky called out Illinois Republican Governor for his silence on the issue of the potential ACA repeal and his refusal to speak out against it in defense of the Illinois economy and its citizenry.
So what is the point of Republican policy that seems both economically and humanly destructive? As I have argued previously on the pages of PoliticusUsa regarding the Republicans and Rauner in particular, we need to understand Republican scorched earth policies such as we have seen Rauner’s Illinois, Bobby Jindhal’s Louisiana, Sam Brownback’s Kansas, and Scott Walker’s Wisconsin as not pro-business but pro-wealthy. This distinction is of vital importance if we are to understand the GOP agenda. The Republican project, as I’ve argued, is to re-distribute wealth to the top, acceleratingly so, not to help business and by extension, perhaps, the working-class majority. Egan’s comments make this agenda clear.
Indeed, even the pro-business CNBC website has featured reports underscoring the far-reaching economic devastation and job-loss repealing the ACA would entail. Dan Mangan, for example, reports that according to a study from Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, the repeal of key provisions of the ACA would trigger massive job loss to the tune of potentially three million jobs in healthcare and other sectors as well as a 1.5 trillion reduction in gross state product from 2019 to 2023, triggering also a damaging slump in consumer spending. As Mangan puts it, “Spending less by getting rid of Obamacare could end up costing a whole lot more.”
So what’s the end game for Republicans? Well, according to Tony Nitti in a piece he contributed to Forbes (no left-wing rag), repealing Obamacare would result in an average tax savings of $33,000 for the wealthiest one percent of Americans, while those making between $10,000 and $75,000 would actually see their taxes increase—and millions would lose health insurance or have to pay astronomically more for it, effectively an additional tax increase. The end game is simply to give more to the wealthy, which is not the same thing as helping businesses or improving the health of the economy. (That the House GOP voted to conceal the costs of repealing the ACA from the public arguably underscores the repeal is not economically salubrious for the taxpayers and the nation.)
And the economic and human costs go together. At the Chicago rally, Tracy Trovato told the story of how her husband Carlo was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. He has been cured after hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment. Should the cancer return, however, and Obamacare were to be repealed, allowing insurance companies to re-instate lifetime caps on coverage, it is likely Carlo would not be able to afford treatment to save his life, or the Trovato family would endure absolute economic ruin. Trovato’s story makes clear the human and economic costs of repealing the ACA. Her family’s story is not singular but representative, and having widespread bankruptcy is not good for the health of our economy, not to mention our humanity.
We need to see that Obamacare is not a hand-out, but simply sound economic policy that serves both the American people as a whole and American business.
We also need to see that Republicans serve neither but simply want to accelerate the distribution of wealth to a speed that will break all of our necks, those of our working and middle classes and those of the business world.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.