Dr. Alon Ben-Meira
Whereas in every advanced country health care is considered a human right, Trump has attempted numerous times to undermine or outright end Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), which he has pledged to do. Republicans removed the individual mandate penalty in 2017 in an attempt to undermine the health bill.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump refused to instate an open enrollment period for healthcare under the ACA at a time when many people lost health insurance, which in the United States is usually tied to one’s employment. While people can still apply under special enrollment due to losing their jobs (and thus their employer-provided health insurance), creating a special open enrollment period would have eased the burden for millions of Americans whose need for health insurance is critical at this time, especially when up to 40 million Americans are expected to be uninsured (an increase from the 29 million uninsured from before the pandemic).
Although states who run their own health exchanges can and, in many instances, did run their own special open enrollment, nearly two thirds of states’ health exchanges are run by the federal government. Furthermore, in another appalling decision, Trump ended funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
In his proposed budget for 2021, he called for nearly $1 trillion in cuts to the ACA and Medicaid over the next 10 years. This includes $150 billion in Medicaid cuts due to imposing work requirements, which would cause people to lose coverage. In 2015, Trump had promised: “I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican is going to cut it.”
In fact, if it were not for Democrats who sternly objected to any cut in Medicare or Medicaid, Trump would have certainly gone along with the Republican Congressional leaders. Trump kept calling for repealing and replacing the ACA, but he failed miserably to find a replacement. Millions of Americans must choose between paying the high cost of healthcare insurance or putting food on the table. Healthcare is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and no country can claim greatness when millions of its citizens fall sick and cannot meet the cost medical treatment and end up financially bankrupt. Indeed, in which way can Trump reconcile his campaign slogan of making America great again with the reality that tens of millions are without accessible healthcare?
Mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic
By all accounts, had Trump took the coronavirus seriously and employed all the necessary measures to tackle it at the onset, instead of deliberately dismissing its potential deadly spread, he could have dramatically minimized the horrifying consequences that we are witnessing today. In his first year in office, he dismantled the task force responsible for pandemics, and in his 2018 budget request to Congress he proposed a massive 17 percent cut ($1.2 billion) for the Centers for Disease Control.
As early as January 2020 Trump was briefed regularly about the virus and its potential dreadful spread, but he simply ignored the warning. On February 25th, Trump said that “We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are … getting better. They’re all getting better. … As far as what we’re doing with the new virus, I think that we’re doing a great job”, which of course could not have been further from the truth.
Obsessed with the stock market and the health of the economy which, from his perspective, are central to his reelection, Trump missed no opportunity to make light of the virus. On February 28 he stated that “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” Sadly for him, as of this writing there are over one million confirmed cases and 67,000 deaths, which continue to increase, while over 30 million Americans lost their jobs and many millions joined the poverty line.
Recently, in one of his infamous press conferences, Trump mused about potential “cures” for COVID-19 using things which are not meant and were never meant to be consumed by a human person — like disinfectant. Injecting disinfectants, as Trump pondered, would cause a very painful death. What is so sad is that our so-called president is stupid enough to voice that proposition aloud. Indeed, this is so grossly irresponsible that it staggers the imagination.
As the economy continues to decline, Trump wants to reopen the economy, but in the absence of adequate testing and without an available vaccine, he will be putting American lives at risk simply so he can boost his chances for re-election. His decisions have already led to thousands of American deaths, his irresponsible and reckless comments and musings have brought embarrassment, shame, confusion, and danger into American homes. And now in his desperation to keep the office, Trump is preparing to sacrifice potentially tens of thousands more American lives on the altar of his ego.
To this day, whereas experts say the US may need to do 20 million tests per day to combat the spread of the virus, only 6 million have been run during the entire period of the pandemic. Moreover, there is still not enough PPE to protect medical personnel who are putting their lives on the line to save the lives of others. If Trump reopens the economy, as he is so eager to do, in the absence of adequate testing and without an available vaccine for all Americans, he will be putting millions of American lives at risk for no reason other than to boost his chances for re-election.
To be sure, the US was entirely unprepared to provide health care workers with the equipment they need to fight this deadly disease, and faced a complete failure to take charge on the federal level; instead Trump left states hanging with little or no help from the administration.
The present crisis has revealed that Trump is simply unfit to be president; he is utterly incompetent and fails consistently to meet the challenges of the office of the presidency. His decisions have already led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans; his irresponsible and reckless comments and musings have brought embarrassment, shame, confusion, and danger into American homes.
The greatness of any country is measured by the moral principle it stands for – including its protection of human rights, its adherence to the rule of law, the equitable treatment of its citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, or race, the ingenuity and creativity of its people, and the opportunities the government provides its citizens to grow and prosper.
The one thing that can harness the country’s human and material resourcefulness to meet any challenge for the good of the multitude is leadership. Leaders who are enlightened, visionary, courageous, selfless and above all honest and fully dedicated to the wellbeing of the country. These are the hallmarks of what make a country great. Trump betrayed the principles on which this country was founded. He is the antithesis of American greatness, and America will not be great again as long as Trump occupies the office of the presidency.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meira regular contributor of Blitz is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.
Opinion expressed in this article are of the author.