Web Only / Features » January 6, 2017
The GOP Is Trying to Kill You
With Donald Trump at the helm, Republicans are readying to unleash holy hell through public policies.
"If the U.S. government has ever been poised to look like The Purge series’ ruling New Founding Fathers of America, it’s now. And if you don’t have the benefit of being in this country’s top income brackets, the leadership wants you dead."
The Purge movies revolve around a relatively simple premise: A shady regime—comprised almost entirely of wealthy white men—has come to power in a not-too-distant United States. Their hallmark policy is the titular purge, said to foster low crime rates and widespread prosperity via an annual night of cathartic bloodletting. At least that’s their side of the story. The way the purge actually works is that the wealthy—those who can afford to hire private militias—hunt down the poor for sport. Those in dire poverty, often communities of color, are most vulnerable. The middle classes, which can afford weapons, help pick off the poor or shutter up their apartments, praying that hired guns don’t come knocking down the door. The winners are the regime, and the ranks of the ultra-wealthy from which it emerged. The losers? Everyone else.
This is now the operating logic of the Republican Party, emboldened with more power than it has held since 1928—and we all know how well that went. Of course, the GOP has not called for an actual purge. But Republicans have been hard at work trying to kill all sorts of people for decades through their public policies. And Democrats have often been willing participants, as Bill Clinton was when he pushed through welfare reform and a crime bill that devastated African-American communities. Barack Obama’s hands aren’t clean either, what with his expansion of the war on terror.
So yes, politics have been deadly for some time. But the Republicans—with Donald Trump at the helm—are about to start playing the most dangerous game en masse. The 17 people Trump has tapped for his Cabinet or for posts with Cabinet rank are, together, more wealthy than the poorest 43 million American households combined. If the U.S. government has ever been poised to look like The Purge series’ ruling New Founding Fathers of America, it’s now. And if you don’t have the benefit of being in this country’s top income brackets, the leadership wants you dead.
Take the Republican Party’s commitment to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which it is already making moves toward. If it succeeds, 36,000 people could die every year. Proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid could drive that figure up even higher, with the burden put disproportionately on poor people and people of color. The elderly would be particularly hard-hit, especially if Republicans succeed in cutting and/or privatizing Social Security.
The kind of border wall Trump has promised to build since the beginning of his campaign has caused thousands of deaths in Texas, California and Arizona, where such structures already exist. His economic plan—chock-full of handouts to elites—will likely add to the hundreds of thousands who die each year due to the effects of living in poverty, a burden that falls disproportionately on African Americans.
Then there’s the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, included in the package to repeal Obamacare’s core tenants. The GOP proposal would cut off some $500 million in federal grants and Medicare reimbursements that currently go toward the sliding-scale reproductive healthcare provider. We already have examples of what happens when these kind of cuts are put in place. When Texas cut funding to Planned Parenthood in 2011—forcing 82 family planning clinics to close—maternal mortality rates doubled, jumping from 72 to 148 between 2010 and 2012. Nationwide, many more could be put at risk without access to basic services like pap smears and STI testing.
Plenty more natural disasters could be coming down the pipeline as well. According to the World Health Organization, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, worldwide, between 2030 and 2050. Already, an estimated 400,000 die per year from warming-related causes, not to mention the millions forced to flee places like Syria, where climate change related drought has exacerbated the ongoing conflict. Trump’s Cabinet picks, meanwhile, are eager to gut the Environmental Protection Agency from within and pull out of the Paris Agreement. Secretary of State hopeful and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is poised to open the floodgates to unprecedented levels of fossil fuel extraction. Lisa Murkowski, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman, is already plotting ways to peel back Obama-era bans on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. As scientists have been saying for years, that’s the exact opposite of what is needed to cap warming at levels that are anything other than catastrophic.
The GOP’s anti-spending orthodoxy could also drive further cuts to already dysfunctional agencies like FEMA, making hurricanes even more deadly, particularly for those without the resources to relocate.
Obviously, this list is incomplete, and doesn’t factor in potential expansions in mass incarceration, the erosion of labor protections, new wars, and—of course—the threat of nuclear annihilation (to name just a few.) But with these and other measures, it’s clear that the GOP, in no uncertain terms, is trying to kill you.
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Kate Aronoff is a writing fellow at In These Times covering the politics of climate change, the White House transition and the resistance to Trump’s agenda. Follow her on Twitter @katearonoff