Trump Helping the Rich at West Virginia's Expense

Trump Helping the Rich at West Virginia's Expense
Photo by Kayla Velasquez / Unsplash

[This piece was originally published in the Wheeling Intelligencer in March, 2017.]

I don’t know whether to say it is utterly shocking, or completely believable, but the Trumpcare bill in Congress (ACHA) turned out to be a rescue package for Wall Street fat cats, paid for by West Virginians. Paul Ryan and Donald Trump have put together a new law that will deprive hundreds of thousands of West Virginians of Medicaid, to finance massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. The “American Health Care Act” cuts Medicaid and insurance subsidies for our struggling region and vastly increases the incomes of the richest Americans in New York City.

Of course, that’s just what you’d expect me to say, as a steadfast Democrat, right? It’s a shame that I’m even allowed to slander our president and Speaker Ryan with these accusations, don’t you think? Well, don’t take it from me, then.

Take it from Trump himself, who was asked by Tucker Carlson, on Fox, about how the Trump-Ryan AHCA gave huge tax breaks to wealthy people and hurt the working-class communities that carried Trump to the presidency. Trump’s response: “I know.” Carlson, sincerely incredulous, followed up by asking if Trump wasn’t being “inconsistent” to take health care from the middle class to give tax cuts to the rich. Trump said: “A lot of things are inconsistent.” Not comforting.

Or listen to the starry-eyed hippies at AARP, which said of the Trump-Ryan bill: “(On) top of the hefty premium increase for consumers, big drug companies and other special interests get a sweetheart deal.” AARP also pointed out the Trumpcare plan threatens the funding and solvency of Medicare. It said: “This legislation, as introduced, would weaken Medicare, leaving the door open to a voucher program that shifts costs and risks to seniors.”

How about conservative columnist Froma Harrop, a regular on the editorial page of the Wheeling Intelligencer, a pretty conservative paper. According to her, “(It’s) old news that Republican plans to basically kill Obamacare would hit Trump country the hardest.” The news isn’t old enough, apparently. Our local Congressman, David McKinley, has not come out against the bill and has been making supportive comments on his website.

This is a bill that would take away Medicaid from tens of thousands of his constituents in order to fund tax breaks for people who pull down over $250,000 every year. The biggest beneficiaries of all are the millionaires and billionaires who won’t pay the Affordable Care Act taxes on investment income. In other words, the middle class and the poor in West Virginia are giving up their Medicaid to fund a tax break for Wall Street’s high rollers.

Any West Virginia public official who doesn’t stand up against this Trump-Ryan fiasco of a bill should be tarred and feathered, and lose their next election.

The existing health care law, the ACA, provides services our state desperately needs, not only Medicaid, but drug addiction treatment coverage and mental health benefits that are critical, in the midst of the opioid epidemic. It should go without saying that we cannot afford to give up those services so that wealthy investors in New York can make higher profits, but apparently, it does need saying. This bill has got to be stopped, or it will cost lives in West Virginia, and hurt the effort to rebuild our economy.

Meanwhile, the first Trump budget didn’t offer any help either. To the right is a map of the counties most affected by the budget cuts to federal agencies providing relief to Appalachia. Instead the help we need, the Trump budget takes away from what little we have.

When he ran for president, Trump said he would help West Virginians, not pick their pockets to enrich his pals in New York City and at “Mar-a-lago.” People believed him when he said he’d made health care better and not worse. Well, he is off to a very bad start. There is nothing in this legislation to help any West Virginians, except maybe our governor, who is rich enough to get those tax cuts, and maybe a few others who are well off enough and don’t need the help.

West Virginia does not have time to wait. Promises were made that this would be a presidency dedicated to people like the ones who live here and it is not materializing. Trump needs to get on track sooner rather than later, or our state will far further behind.