Appointments and nominations for the cabinet are announced or leaked daily. Reactions range from wholehearted approval to equally heartfelt revulsion to “coulda been much worse.”
The one that riveted my attention was Dr. Tom Price, a Congressman from Georgia who will be nominated to become Secretary of Health and Human Services. When confirmed he will be tasked with dismantling ObamaCare and installing a substitute. Because Price was among the earliest and most passionate opponents of the Affordable Care Act and unlike most Republican members introduced detailed alternatives, he is the right person to fulfill this Trump campaign promise. And that’s all most people know about Price, this tight fit between job description and applicant, reminiscent of AC/DCs “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”
But there is quite a lot more to Price, as your blogger learned while evaluating the 19 physicians serving in Congress in 2012. An op-ed titled “To Cure the Dysfunctional Congress – Don’t Call the Doctors,” chronicles the outsize role that doctor-members played in the rancorous stalemate that prevailed that year and plummeted public approval of Congress to 11%. It has rebounded all the way to 20%, perhaps because the next Congress will have only 14 physicians, including its first urologist.
Among Representative Price’s votes and positions, directly or loosely related to America’s physical and mental health, is his support for phasing out Medicare over a ten year period. He also opposes expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”) and S-CHIP, the highly successful state component. This is the one positive program to emerge from Hillary Clinton’s healthcare initiative during her husband’s administration. CHIP, contrary to recent campaign claims was an achievement brokered by Ted Kennedy with Senator Orin Hatch. Well Price doesn’t like that healthcare program for kids and he also disfavors treating mental illness as the equivalent of physical ailment in federal healthcare programs. Abortion? Price believes human life begins at conception and the right of privacy and bodily integrity cease at the moment of birth, at least for females.
Dr. Price also opposes embryonic stem cell research. In health related areas, the doctor opposes any additional gun restrictions, supports exploration for oil on the continental shelf, a reduction in the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases and would renounce U.S. adherence to the CO2 limits in the Kyoto Protocol.
Beyond the health sphere, Dr. Price has a clear view of what will make America great again – including opposition to increasing the minimum wage or granting four weeks parental leave for federal employees or the bailouts of G.M. and Chrysler that recent history suggests were wildly successful in saving American manufacturing jobs. He also opposed the federal program that allowed the restructuring of “under water” mortgages after the housing market crash of 2008. He opposes shareholder votes on executive compensation and interference with employers interfering with labor union organizing. He also opposes any amnesty for undocumented aliens and yes he wants that wall built.
It is natural, indeed smart, to focus on the specific expertise and record that a cabinet nominee will bring to her/his department. However, it is also wise to inquire beyond that specific area to the nominee’s world view, because members of the cabinet weigh in at cabinet meetings on vital matters far afield from their departments. Dr. Price’s view of the world is clear and sobering.