You may be curious why the administration doesn’t simply take its time and make sure that the program, which would surely be received gratefully by senior citizens, is implemented effectively and smoothly. Except you’re probably not actually curious about that because you recognize what’s happening: Trump wants this done before Election Day to capitalize on that goodwill in the form of votes.
None of this is subtle. Sure, a White House spokesman told Politico that the plan “has nothing to do with politics.” It’s just that the team is trying to figure out how to make it happen before Nov. 3, a date with no special significance whatsoever.
When this was first proposed, the New York Times reported that pharmaceutical companies balked at the idea of distributing what they referred to pejoratively as “Trump cards”: cash handouts tied explicitly to the president. But Trump’s team made very clear that the cards would not bear Trump’s name, perish the thought.
According to Politico’s new reporting, the cards will instead be accompanied by a letter signed by Trump. No politicking here, no sir. It’s not as though Trump is trailing among voters over 65, a group he won in 2016. Were that the case, one would think that he’d release some sort of video explicitly focused on seniors, maybe calling them his favorite people in the world. Maybe putting “favorite” in all-caps, to really emphasize it.
The issue here isn’t only that Trump’s clearly trying to leverage the government in ways that will benefit him personally, the sort of thing that might get a fella impeached. What’s more remarkable is how expensive it is — how expensive his cumulative efforts to leverage the presidency to aid his campaign will turn out to be.
Here is a brief shopping receipt.
$19 million. Those letters which the administration hopes to send out with the drug-benefit cards aren’t free. Documents obtained by Politico estimate that sending them out to the country’s 39 million Medicare beneficiaries will cost $19 million, or about 48 cents apiece.
$7.8 billion. Then there’s the value of the cards themselves. If each of those 39 million people gets $200, as planned, the costs add up quickly: nearly $8 billion in costs to the government. The money would be paid out of Medicare’s trust fund.
$72.4 million. There are other costs, too, like buying and activating the cards and providing phone-based support for their use. The proposal obtained by Politico puts the price tag for these additional items at over $72 million, most of it in fiscal 2021, which began Oct. 1.
That’s about $7.9 billion — just for the drug-benefit card program. But that is by no means the only way in which Trump is leveraging government money in an obvious attempt to influence the election.
$11.6 billion. After spending years downplaying the damage done to Puerto Rico after it was hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Trump announced last month that he was providing the island with $9.6 billion to