by Jeff Thom, ACB First Vice President
There was hope among some moderates and liberals that Trump’s conservative rhetoric was more for popular consumption than reality in terms of what his domestic policy agenda might be. That hope, as forlorn as it may have been, seems to be rapidly dying on the vine. Rumors emanating from the Beltway indicate that the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as the Republicans love to call it, will be on Trump’s desk within a day or two of the inauguration. Apparently, the repeal won’t actually take effect until after the 2018 Congressional elections in order to ensure that the Democrats don’t have any ammunition to use to persuade those who lose their benefits to vote out the Congressional majorities, especially when the Senate will still be in play. Unless whatever replaces the ACA solves these problems, the repeal of that law will cut Medicaid matches, throw many off health care benefits, and reopen the senior health care coverage doughnut hole.
The rumor mill further has it that Medicaid legislation will take center stage by early summer, and that could mean anything from dramatic funding cuts to block grants to lord knows what. The fate of Medicare will apparently await the 2019 Congressional session. In addition, although we don’t know what policy agendas will arise from the Department of Education, we do know that the secretary-designate takes the view that public schools and teachers’ unions are tantamount to original sin. And of course we have no idea how the Trump administration will react to regulations that specifically impact people with vision impairments when those regulations pertain to business and industry.
These rumors bring up some questions, the answers to which I don’t have, but which I think we need to ponder as an organization. First, have our chances for the passage of our two major legislative initiatives, Medicare low-vision aids and special education, been dramatically reduced due to the election?
If the answer to the first question is no, do we need to consider veering away from our customary and time-honored tradition of focusing on expending most of our legislative advocacy resources on our own issues and become somewhat more involved in efforts to save the major programs that impact our community along with millions of other Americans? This election, in my view at least, has placed the country in uncharted waters. It has emboldened neo-conservatives beyond anything that would have heretofore been imagined.
It is very likely far too early to answer the questions that I have posed and so many others that may come to mind. It is not, however, too early to begin to reflect on what the immediate future may hold with respect to a variety of issues of importance to ACB and people who are blind or visually impaired.