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Hating government doesn't solve problems

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

WASHINGTON -- In its current iteration, the Republican Party truly seems to believe that the solution to every problem involves throwing more money at rich people. This explains the health care fiasco in the Senate, and it's why President Trump and Congress have yet to address a single major problem the country faces.

Everything is secondary to the GOP's two opening legislative priorities: gutting Obamacare, and passing a tax cut.

The president has talked a lot about infrastructure but he has offered no plan and Congress shows few signs of coming up with one anytime soon. Trump loves to say he wants to help those battered by economic change. But his actions in this sphere have been entirely symbolic. There are no comprehensive proposals for, say, using training, community colleges and the apprenticeships he was touting recently to open up new opportunities.

There have been steps to eliminate regulations protecting workers, consumers and the environment, rationalized as job-creation measures. This is just trickle-down economics in another form: Whatever fulfills the desires of the most privileged sectors in our society is declared to be good for everyone else. But God forbid that government do anything to help the non-rich directly.

It's not true that every problem has a government solution. But it is true that certain problems can only be addressed by government. One of these is helping all Americans afford a decent health insurance policy. It's this simple: To cover everyone, government has to spend a lot of money.

Why? Because unless you get your coverage from an employer or have an income in excess of (conservatively) $75,000 a year, the expense of insurance is crushing to your household budget.

 

"In 2017," the Milliman Medical Index reported last month, "the cost of health care for a typical American family of four covered by an average employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) plan is $26,944."

This figure includes out-of-pocket costs, but insurance itself is expensive enough. Earlier this month, the National Conference of State Legislatures pointed out that "annual premiums reached $18,142 in 2016 for an average family."

Now, consider this: Someone working full time at $10 an hour earns $20,800 a year before taxes; at $15 an hour, $31,200; at $20 an hour, $41,600. The median household income in 2015, according to the most recent Census Bureau figures, was $56,516.

Is it any wonder that it's so hard for so many to buy health insurance?

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