Monday, June 26, 2017

The Ugly American redux in the era of Trump and the GOP

We are coming up on the 60th anniversary of a book, The Ugly American , about flawed American diplomacy in Southeast Asia during the cold war. In the book published in 1958 a Burmese journalist observes “A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They are loud and ostentatious.”

There is another way in which Americans are “ugly” and that is by refusing to engage in developing countries leaving economic assistance to other global players.

Those thoughts this morning were prompted by two items in the FiveThirtyEight Significant Digits email. The first item concerns the death toll likely to be caused by American withdrawal of medical aid in sub-Saharan Africa.

1 million deaths
A White House budget proposal cuts $1.1 billion from a George W. Bush-era program that funds antiretroviral drugs for people with H.I.V. in sub-Saharan Africa. That kind of cut could lead to an estimated 1 million additional deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, according to researchers. [The New York Times]

There is a feast-or-famine kind of cycle in U. S. spending on foreign aid, but Trump’s cut seems to go beyond that and reflects an isolationist thinking in the White House. If the people in the affected countries did not hate us then, they soon will.

The second item concerns the harm inflicted on nursing home residents by the Republican bills, both House and Senate, that drastically cut Medicaid on the way to phasing it out completely.

1.4 million people
That’s the number of Americans who live in nursing homes, and Medicaid pays for most of their costs. In the U.S., 64 percent of people in nursing homes rely on Medicaid, so the Medicaid cuts in the Republican health care law could have far-reaching consequences for them. [The New York Times]

“We have a very good plan,” Trump said in an interview aired Sunday. I completely fail to understand the thinking that leads Trump to that conclusion and the reasoning that leads the Senate Republicans to brand their mean-spirited bill as “Better Care.” Better for whom?

There’s a common thread that connects these two items. Think about it.

Here is a concluding observation in the form of a paraphrasing of the Burmese journalist’s comment in The Ugly American.

A mysterious change seems to come over Donald Trump when he goes to the foreign land known as America . He isolates himself socially, communicating via computer messages. He lives pretentiously in a Florida mansion. He is loud and ostentatious as he bullies journalists and attacks bringers of facts.

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