House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) sits in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill March 19, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Chaffetz tries and fails to defend the Republican health care plan

Updated
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has made quite a name for himself lately. The Utah Republican has gone to almost comical lengths to avoid scrutiny of Donald Trump’s many controversies, while simultaneously latching on to trivia, which he’s labeled “serious.”

Yesterday, true to form, Chaffetz responded to the president’s new wiretap conspiracy theory by telling Fox News, “The Obama administration has been notorious on this type of stuff, and we’re going to look hard at it.” In reality, the Obama administration hasn’t been notorious for anything of the kind, and even Chaffetz conceded he’s seen no evidence to bolster Trump’s claims.

This morning, as the Huffington Post noted, the GOP lawmaker was once again in the spotlight, this time making the case for his party’s woeful health care reform proposal.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is proposing a quick fix for low-income Americans unable to afford coverage under President Donald Trump’s newly proposed health care law: Don’t buy an iPhone.

The American Health Care Act, unveiled by House Republican leaders Monday, offers less financial assistance to low-income people than former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, so it would likely result in millions of Americans losing the health coverage they have today.

But the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Tuesday that Americans who might struggle to afford insurance under the GOP plan simply need to make the choice to “invest in health care.”
Specifically, Chaffetz told CNN, “Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice. So rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.”

Later this morning, he added on Fox News, “Maybe I didn’t say it as smoothly as I could.”

Perhaps not, but the congressman nevertheless touched on a common point of concern among conservatives, which helped drive the blueprint of the new GOP plan.

On its face, Chaffetz’s argument is plainly foolish. A new iPhone costs several hundred dollars, while decent health care insurance costs several thousand dollars a year. For a congressman who enjoys a generous, taxpayer-financed salary and benefits package to suggest low-income Americans should give up their smart phones in order to buy health security is misguided.

But I think there’s also an assumption among many on the right that struggling Americans have themselves to blame, and the poor are simply making bad decisions with their available resources. Chaffetz’s on-air comments to CNN are practically a caricature of the sentiment: maybe struggling families would be able to buy their own coverage, without government aid, the argument goes, if only they didn’t bother with a smart phone.

It’s a perspective predicated on the idea that low-income families would be in better shape if they reprioritized. It’s also why GOP lawmakers routinely vote to cut food stamps and unemployment benefits.

I understand that voting decisions are often irrational, but I’ll look forward to the public reactions to news that the Republican health care plan directs resources from the bottom up, gives the wealthy a big tax break, undermines working families’ health security, and its defenders are asking the poor to take care of themselves by forgoing iPhone purchases.

Jason Chaffetz

Chaffetz tries and fails to defend the Republican health care plan

Updated