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Columnists

Trump’s Road to Victory; How He Can Get My Vote?

May 19, 2020
By Amb. Patrick Theros

Trump styles himself as a populist working for the common people and defending them against their elite oppressors. Suppress your desire to laugh; it’s been done before. Two other wealthy Presidents from New York City can legitimately claim the mantle of protectors of the poor and the middle class, the cousins Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt. Purists might complain that claiming to protect the people and actually doing it separates the Roosevelts from our current President. Nevertheless, there is a way Donald J. Trump can leave his mark in American history while guaranteeing his reelection.

Trump can resolve America’s two most pressing socio-economic problems: a healthcare system that will bankrupt the country after it bankrupts everyone poorer than Mr. Trump, and an educational system that has made Americans uncompetitive in the world. Yes, we have the Mayo Clinic and Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Stanford, world-class institutions but to which very few can access. Our “systems” increasingly ration education and healthcare by wealth, not government fiat. Obama improved access to healthcare but Obamacare did not make a dent on its outrageous costs, ultimately undermining his achievement.

Two thirds of US college students go into debt to pay their tuition. Fourteen percent of their parents have had to borrow to help them. (This, after they paid eye-watering private high school tuition because they feared that their kids could not get into college from substandard public education.) The scary news: 45 million Americans owe over $1.64 trillion in student loan debt. That sum exceeds the total US credit card debt owed by 300 million Americans by $587 billion. One problem aggravates the other: a medical student will spend upwards of half a million dollars before she earns her first dollar as a doctor. Unless Donald pays her tuition, she will spend the following two decades desperately trying to pay off her college loan.

Trump may be the only American politician capable of solving both problems. He can launch realistic, simple and measured policy changes that extend Medicare to the entire population. He need not embrace Bernie’s “Medicare for All” that sought to convert Medicare into Britain’s National Health Service virtually overnight but rather keep the current system of co-pays and deductibles. Trump should immediately seek legislation that will begin a gradual extension of Medicare. He could begin by initiating a program that extends Medicare in the first year to all children less than twelve years old, i.e., newborns to 6th graders, and their mothers. The next year he can lower eligibility for seniors from 65 to age 50. He can then narrow the gap over the next two years alternating age cohorts until Medicare covers the entire population.

The Medicare example also provides a framework for lessening the burden of college tuition. Today we have almost a dozen confusing student loan programs; either financed directly with federal money or with federal loan guarantees. Pell Grants, the most important grant program helps students from families earning less than $20,000. A point to note, the programs set the loan or grant amounts through arcane formulas that confuse applicants but do not address the obscene tuitions charged by prestigious schools. A student with a ten thousand dollar grant would still have to find other ways to pay the rest of a $60,000 tuition bill. Trump should seek legislation that simplifies the programs, keeping the Pell Grants for the poorest students and loan programs for the economic tier above them. However, Trump must also secure legislation that takes a page from Medicare. Medicare, as we all know, has a price list of payment for services rendered that pays less than do insurance companies but still allows healthcare providers a decent profit. If a doctor or hospital accepts Medicare, the law forbids them from charging Medicare patients one penny more. The student grant and loan programs should set similar tuition caps, e.g., equivalent to out-of-state tuition levels at state schools. If a private University accepts a government check for tuition and other fees (books, facilities, etc.), the law would require, as does Medicare, not to charge the student a penny more. If the University does not want to accept the limitation, it need not accept the student. Will some of the plutocratic educational institutions behind the moats of huge endowment funds turn down the opportunity? Of course, but they will soon find themselves turning down some of the brightest young kids in the country.

Ah, but the disbeliever in helping poor people get access to education and healthcare will argue, “How do you pay for all this?” Well, we already budget for the education programs. In 2017, the government financed roughly $100 billion in student loans and provided about $30 billion in grants and $30 billion in tax preferences (CBO numbers). Financing extended Medicare will require higher taxes but reducing health insurance premiums will lessen the burden on the middle class. Medicare’s payroll tax, which currently brings in about $256 billion, could easily raise its 2.9% rate by two percentage points. A family earning $50,000 a year would see a $1,000 ANNUAL increase in taxes. That family probably pays $750 a MONTH for catastrophic health insurance with a $7,000 deductible. If the family wants supplemental, AARP offers supplemental insurance at $250 monthly: do the numbers.

Trump would have no problem getting such legislation through Congress and it would guarantee a landslide victory in November if he starts now. No Democratic legislator would oppose him and we already know that the GOP has abandoned every dearly held political principal in servitude to Him. I would happily support renaming Medicare and Pell Grants to TrumpCare and Trump Grants.

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