Last December, as the GOP brainstormed how to package their Obamacare replacement, House Republican aides came up with a cute euphemism for taking healthcare from millions of people: providing “universal access” in lieu of universal coverage. “We would like to get to a point where we have what we call universal access, where everybody is able to access coverage to some degree or another,” a top Republican aide told the New York Times.
The “access” talking point became a go-to dodge in the GOP repeal effort. During his Senate confirmation hearings, health secretary Tom Price repeatedly offered variations of a promise to ensure that all Americans “have the opportunity to gain access” to insurance coverage.
The Republican hope was that no one would notice the implication of their spin: the glaring fact that “access” is gigantic step backward from actual coverage. It’s one thing to have mere “access” to a roof over your head; it’s another thing entirely to actually be covered by one.
But Bernie Sanders swiftly cut through the GOP noise at Price’s hearing. “Has access to’ does not mean that they are guaranteed health care,” Sanders said. “I have access to buying a $10 million home. I don’t have the money to do that.”
The weak sauce of “universal access” set the tone for the slow motion nosedive of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort. The line gradually disappeared as it became clear that there was no spin artful enough to sell the shitburger royale that was the Republican plan to toss 20 million plus people off of their health insurance.
But alas, the “access” dodge has been re-born to kick off yet another Republican effort to take from the poor and middle-class to give to the rich. This time, it’s tax reform, the GOP’s con to goose working people with a pittance while showering its wealthy donor class with massive tax cuts. It’s a plan that would hollow out the income distribution even more, exacerbating our already gaping income inequality.
To put a glossy sheen on this repulsive goal, Republicans are resurrecting the empty promise of “access.” During a conference call with reporters previewing Trump’s tax reform pitch, one White House official said, “We’re going to build a tax code that really allows all Americans to have access to the American dream.”
Again, theoretical “access” to the American dream is far from the same thing as being able to attain the American dream. As a matter of fact, Trump’s tax plan would give the poor a whole $40 toward that dream, while shoveling a whopping $940,000 to the already super-rich. Who’s better positioned to buy the $10 million house here?
While White House staffers feel the inner tug to fudge the true nature of their policies, Trump has no qualms about outright lying. On Wednesday, he promised that his tax plan will produce a “big fat beautiful paycheck” for millions of American workers.
It will not. His plan will make the rich richer while tossing pocket change to the poor and middle-class. It provides the same illusory and fraudulent pathway to the American dream that Trump University once did. When it comes to providing access to broad prosperity, conservative policy is a bridge to nowhere.