Chicago-area health care providers hold a march June 22, 2017, in opposition to GOP health care plan. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Until Obamacare came along, I never imagined that I would one day be collecting a governmental subsidy to help me cover the cost of my health care. But I do. I am neither ashamed nor proud of it. I was previously uninsured and hoping like hell that I did not get seriously sick or injured. Then the Affordable Care Act was passed, requiring me to get covered or pay a tax penalty. As much as I was not looking forward to a monthly insurance premium, I was less enthusiastic about forking over the tax for not being covered. So I signed on.
And now I find myself in a tug-of-war with Donald Trump and his gilded sidekicks over my health care coverage. It's hardly a fair match.
Mr. Trump's lavish lifestyle is known worldwide. In contrast, here's a bit about my more modest existence: I am an under-employed 57-year-old man without a pension or 401K plan. My average yearly income currently hovers somewhere around $23,000. No penthouses or palaces here; I live in a 384 square-foot apartment in Baltimore City with a monthly rent that I can barely afford. Central air? Cable? Yeah, right! Not on my budget. My clothes are old. My teeth have yellowed and go unexamined by a dentist. I do not travel. (My dream trip to the Italian birthplaces of my grandparents will likely never happen.) Dinner out is rare. Movies, even rarer. I worry about becoming homeless.
And yet, comparatively speaking, I consider myself lucky. I have a job I like and a little 4-cylinder car to get me there and back. A roof stands securely over my head, for now. My belly is full.
Many are worse off by far. I see them daily around Baltimore, carrying hand-written cardboard signs advertising their need as they beg for money at busy intersections. I can no longer afford to give, except for the occasional dollar to someone I perceive, rightly or wrongly, as being truly desperate.
I think it's safe to assume that Donald Trump and his allies in Congress have never worried about one day having to beg for their next meal. I'm pretty sure that most of us receiving Obamacare have. We are perched, shakily, a mere rung or two above the destitute.
I suspect The Donald would write me off as a loser. Others certainly have. Call me biased, but I go a bit easier on myself. Sure, I made some mistakes, took some wrong turns. But there were circumstances beyond my control that affected my path as well, socioeconomic status first among them. Had I landed in luxury's lap at birth like Donald Trump, it is very unlikely that my situation today would be so precarious.
And now this man who has so much wants to take away something so important from millions of people who have so little. Other than labeling it "a disaster," Mr. Trump has offered no solid, legitimate reasons to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. If you ask me, this whole effort is nothing more than Mr. Trump acting on his long-standing rivalry with President Barack Obama.
Sure, The Affordable Care Act had problems at its outset and is imperfect still. But it did what it set out to do — help the working poor afford health insurance. That this administration threatens to jeopardize the health-care coverage of over 20 million newly insured Americans is nothing less than obscene.
Sadly, Mr. Trump's tenure has been characterized by a succession of obscenities. I keep waiting for that long hook from Vaudeville to reach over and yank this joker of a president off the international stage. But he bulldozes on, unimpeded, crushing good sense and fairness and propriety. Oh, and those pesky non-alternative facts too.
Maybe Mr. Trump is making America great again for some people. But he sure isn't for those of us who can't afford health insurance.