The Trump Administration and its Republican allies in Congress have set new records for mendacity in office. This is not a new take, of course: the lies are so noteworthy that the New York Times even has an entire page dedicated to them. Most remarkable have been the lies about easily verifiable details, like for instance the size of Trump’s inauguration crowds versus those of Obama in 2008.
But there’s something particularly pernicious and jaw-dropping about the outright lies Republicans are telling about the Senate healthcare-tax-cut bill.
For all its complexities, the bill is at its heart not terribly complicated: it slashes Medicaid by enormous margins over time, in order to pay for tax cuts for the top 5% of incomes. That’s what it does. It barely pretends to do much of anything else.
Most Americans don’t know this yet. That’s not entirely surprising, of course: keeping the public in the dark about the realities of the bill is precisely why McConnell and crew kept the creation of the bill such a secret. But now the cat will be out of the bag for at least a week until the vote happens on the bill, right?
Not necessarily. We’ve already seen the way information itself has become a tribal commodity in American politics, and how conservative voters are basically of generating a reality distortion field around themselves to screen out unpleasant information that may run counter to sacred ideologies. If Fox News says one thing and everyone else says another, conservative voters are primed to believe the former and dismiss the latter as the carpings of “liberal media.”
So why wouldn’t conservative commentators simply start lying outright about even the most basic facts? Only a sense of shame and decency would prevent it. But this is the Trump Administration, McConnell Senate and Ryan House now. There is no shame or decency.
Hence the sight of Kelly-Anne Conway flatly denying that the bill constitutes a Medicaid cut. She’s not alone: Republicans from Senator Toomey to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price went all over the Sunday shows denying that people would lose coverage and that Medicaid would be stripped of funding. These are all demonstrable falsehoods: preventing a safety net program from meeting inflation and population growth is a cut, and the bill as currently written wouldn’t just take away coverage, it would actually cause seniors to be removed from nursing homes.
The traditional media can try to call them on these lies, but it won’t avail much. Trump’s base is impervious to these critiques, and even when their own healthcare is impacted they’ll find a way to blame it on the left. There is little remaining with which the majority of rational Americans can hold the far right accountable until the next election.
We are in a very dangerous time for democracy.