By Peter Toll
National headlines often state humongous numbers while those of us out here in the hinterlands feel less and less in control as Republicans try to gut funding for vital social problems and hand us the bill while passing on grandiose tax savings to the ultra-rich.
So how does President Trump’s proposed Waldencare legislation and tax plan impact us financially? Trump wants to gut your health care and drop all deductions for state, local and property taxes.
Oregon’s own Greg Walden was a principal author of the bill that passed the House last week. He is now standing stoically in front of his constituents at town hall meetings and denying that his legislation will throw nearly 70,000 of them in Eastern and Southern Oregon off the health insurance rolls. (Oregon’s other Congress members, all Democrats, vehemently oppose it.)
One of the people unable to attend will be a former legislator Walden knew when he was a member of the Oregon House in the 1980’s. She has developed a very rare blood disease. She needs a whole new blood supply every month. She spends the night in the hospital and they drain all her old blood and put in new blood. Monthly. Without that procedure she is dead in a matter of weeks.
She doesn’t live in Oregon anymore, having relocated to another state to be close to an expert in the field. She estimates the overnight blood transfusion would cost her from $5,000 to $7,000 every month without the federal medical program. That is an impossible number for someone on a fixed income of less than $2,000 per month.
“We are scared,” she told me recently. “This Trump stuff is starting to hit home. Without that program we’re sunk. We can’t pay for it.” That means she would die without it. (Remember Trump wants to cut the state Medicare resources, too.
Adding insult to injury, Trump’s tax plan will cut $63 billion in revenues needed to fund programs critical to America’s future. His plan is to remove deductions for state, local, and property taxes.
As Oregon is 1 percent of the country’s population (in round numbers), let’s assume that means Oregonians would pay $63 million more in taxes. If our county is 10 percent of the Oregon number, here in Clackamas that would mean we’ll pay $6.3 million more to the feds every year by dumping the deductions.
This $6.3 million would leave the Oregon economy. It would not be used to improve our infrastructure, fund education, or be invested in jobs. More money will leave the local economy because of changes in the Republican bill, replacing the Affordable Care Act, that passed the House recently.
This bill provides a major reduction in basic health services with the cost savings being handed to the rich in the form of tax cuts.
How can they get away with this? Well, just 1 percent of all Americans require 21 percent of the health expense. Also, 20 percent of all of us with health problems draw 82 percent of the total costs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In other words, just 20 percent of the people in the country, many of whom are low income and usually do not vote, will suffer the most. Over time this number will grow until we end up with another health insurance crisis like we had prior to the Affordable Care Act.
Trump and Walden are preying on the poor and less fortunate, most of whom have no interest in voting.
Without appearing crass, it could be argued the Republicans figure the rest of the citizens, those who vote, won’t take the time to educate themselves or look to the future to see the long-term consequences of this approach. After all, most of the Republican House members didn’t even read the legislation.
Meanwhile, if as predicted some 300,000 Oregonians are adversely impacted by this plan; that is about 9 percent of all the people in our state. My own sense is that this is not the Oregon way. We do not turn a cold shoulder on our neighbors who are afflicted with an illness which has come upon them merely through bad luck of the draw.
Some national pundits have said the Republicans are putting themselves in such a corner that the only way out will be single payer/universal health care. You know, the kind that works in every other leading nation in the world. It can’t come too soon for some people. Like most of us.
Peter Toll is a long-time county resident active in local political affairs.