The United States seems to be excited that Trump got behind a podium last night and acted his age. He was calmer than usual, with toned-down rhetoric and a lack of mention of his inauguration crowd size. While some celebrate his newfound ability to act like an adult, we need to make sure we don’t let this overshadow what he said. While he was busy playing like a grown-up, Donald Trump said 94 million Americans are out of the labor force, in a country of 318 million. About 242 million of them are over 18, and 36 million of those are retired. By these measures, nearly 1 in 2 people would be considered out of the labor force, and the United States is now going to become a Mad Max-style wasteland. Fortunately, this a not a real measure of unemployment, just another blatant obfuscation of fact out of Donald’s mouth.
This is far from the only thing Trump said last night that raised some questions. Trump’s greatest hits last night spanned from immigration to the economy and healthcare. He was back to his old rhetoric on jobs: “For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.” The middle class has suffered tremendous blows because of the increase in wealth disparity, helped along by issues such as decreasing union membership and a lack of progressive tax structures. Since 1979, union membership has decreased from 34 to 10 percent. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, under 1979 levels of union membership average wages would have increased about 5%, or $2,704, for the average nonunion worker. Aside from this, jobs have not simply been exported. As I’ve written about before, automation accounts for around 85% of lost jobs.
After the failure that was his immigration policy order, Trump doubled down and said that “It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur.” This doesn’t need to be picked apart by statistics. Our vetting process, undertaken by the State Department, can take up to two years. Furthermore, if there are any questionable things found, the individual is not let in. The entire process is outlined in this article. Vetting is not taken lightly, and it’s insulting to people working in these departments to insist they aren’t doing their job. Studies have shown immigrants, particularly refugees, do not increase overall crime rates, showing that vetting works.
While Trump’s address wasn’t his most offensive time in front of a microphone, he unveiled a lot of plans that are harmful to our economy, our citizens, and our international image.
What we should find most offensive to our intellect is his approach to healthcare reform. The Republican agenda keeps over-promising and under-delivering. Healthcare, as Trump himself noted, is extremely complex. This is why we shouldn’t believe there is an easy answer. Trump’s belief? “Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America. The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.” While it may be opinion that that wasn’t the right solution, the mechanics of the ACA work in a way such that if everyone had purchased insurance as they were mandated to, premiums would have decreased by increasing the number of paying members. If we want everyone to be insured, we need to provide it for free or force people to buy it. It is wishful thinking to believe that everyone will buy health insurance if they lower the cost, and it’s a dream we can’t afford to have. Another facet that the GOP consistently misses is that just because you aren’t insured doesn’t mean you won’t get care. Uninsured individuals receive care, of course, but in the most cost inefficient manner possible. Primary care is often replaced with unnecessary trips to emergency rooms. 13% to 27% of emergency department visits in the United States could be taken care of at a doctor’s office, clinic, or urgent care, and many of these visits are multiple ones from the system’s “frequent fliers”. These visits cost us $4.4 billion annually. Another glaring problem with not providing consistent, comprehensive primary healthcare access is that this also leads to chronic disease rates increasing because of a lack of access to preventive care, which is a very expensive way to treat people. If we can’t find the importance of universal access to healthcare in our hearts, maybe we can find it in our wallet.
While Trump’s address wasn’t his most offensive time in front of a microphone, he unveiled a lot of plans that are harmful to our economy, our citizens, and our international image. While some are bad ideas, others were outright lies. We need to keep an eye on how Trump sells these ideas to Congress, and to ensure that we continue to fact-check his claims. The more he hones his communication style, the more we need to hone our bullshit detectors. People seem to be praising him for good behavior, a sign of how low our standards for decency are when he is involved. We need to maintain high standards, keep questioning, and not be fooled by his better behavior; these policies are as dangerous as ever.