This is a mean-spirited administration. It combines a callous indifference to the poor, a contempt for the sick and vulnerable, a disregard for the truth and fairness, naked self-interest, ideological extremism and the most virulent racism, sexism and anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment in a presidential administration in living memory.
Donald Trump is a bigoted demagogue who sees the political payoff in scapegoating. In his self-absorbed megalomania, he is incapable of empathy. Devoid of concern for others and because he thinks it demonstrates strength and power, Trump is a cruel man. And in this regard he has built an administration in his own image.
Today’s Trumpy nominations, highlighting the worst of the worst of an abominable administration, are for Cruelest Action.
The judges had an incredibly difficult time selecting the nominees, and they recognize a raft of other possible contenders. These include the move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to hit low-level criminal offenders – frequently minorities charged with drug possession – with the most serious charges possible; vicious proposed budget cuts for programs benefiting the poor, including home heating assistance (yes, the administration is willing to let the poor freeze to death); the effort to strip health care from more than 20 million people through repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a move that would have led to more than 40,000 deaths a year; and the shameful failure to effectively assist Puerto Rican recovery after Hurricane Maria. But after great deliberation, the final four nominees are:
The Muslim Ban. Days after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order denying visas to people from seven overwhelmingly Muslim countries. Federal courts blocked the ban as unconstitutional, after which the Trump administration issued a second order. When the courts blocked that, they issued a third. The U.S. Supreme Court has permitted that ban to take effect while litigation continues. But while the litigation continues, the basic truth is obvious: The ban has zero to do with national security and is motivated exclusively by anti-Muslim animus. What a horrible statement this makes to the world, what a disgraceful contravention of the best of American history and values, and what a despicable message to the millions of Muslim-Americans who face a much increased risk of violence and mistreatment directly as a result of the president’s actions.
Medicaid Work Requirements: Hard Bigotry Against the Poor. Earlier this month, the administration announced that it will permit states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. This move is stupid, cruel and illegal. It denies that health care is a right and will lead to needless death and suffering. It will worsen public health problems, including by complicating availability of opioid treatment. It ignores the commonsense recognition – backed by lots of empirical data – that health problems prevent many people from working and that taking away their health care will lessen their ability to get and hold a job. It violates the law, by contravening Medicaid’s purpose to expand health coverage. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma has condescendingly talked about combating the “soft bigotry” of low expectations for Medicaid recipients. What she is in fact doing is promoting the hard bigotry of animus against poor people – the hard and shameful bigotry of health care denial based on wealth.
Nursing Home Abuse. Don’t let it be said that the Trump administration is unresponsive to cries of distress. When Trump administration officials heard “It is critical that we have relief,” they rushed to the rescue. After all, if the nursing home industry was complaining of unfair treatment, then relief was indeed called for. And so, the Trump administration has pulled back a modest move by the Obama administration to impose fines on nursing homes engaged in wrongdoing. Although the fines had generally been small and inadequate, they were frequently levied – because nursing homes regularly engage in misconduct and mistreatment of patients. Since 2013, according to the New York Times, four in 10 nursing homes have been cited for serious violations of federal standards, and Medicare has fined two-thirds of them. By contrast, the Times reports, “the new guidelines discourage regulators from levying fines in some situations, even when they have resulted in a resident’s death.”
Deportation Nation: DACA and TPS. Last fall, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration would end DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which curbed enforcement of immigration laws against immigrants without documentation who came to the United States as children. About 800,000 Dreamers are enrolled in DACA and facing deportation – in many cases to countries they do not know – unless the program is rescued by Congress in the next couple of months. Trump says he “loves the Dreamers,” has “a great love for them” and wants a “bill of love” to protect the Dreamers. But he hasn’t supported any actual legislation, and at best seems to want to hold a solution hostage to concessions on a border wall and other anti-immigrant measures, placing a priority on splitting up families. The Dreamers are the leaders of the 21st century and Trump’s actions are a disgrace.
If we’re lucky, the DACA problem will be solved. But Trump is definitely moving aggressively and heartlessly to deport hundreds of thousands of other immigrants, notably among them those who have been in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Trump is ending TPS for Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Sudanese. This means hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have effectively permanently relocated to the United States in the wake of natural disasters and other emergencies in their home countries will be forced to return to nations that do not have the capacity to absorb them and where they may face violence. The Trump administration line is that it is doing nothing more than ending haven for people who were supposed to be in the United States for a limited period only, long expired. That pretense hardly seems worth rebutting after the “shithole” remark.