If we hope to improve public health, impeach Donald Trump.
What is the evidence for such an assertion? There is a great deal, including but hardly limited to these examples:
- When the White House interferes with the premier public health agency of the USA, that is poor practice that can redound negatively on public health. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gets very little funding to study the effects of guns on public health. Literally, the flagship funder for critical public health issues is essentially nulled from funding research into a cause of death for 40,000 Americans every year–while Trump is spreading misinformation about the causes–it’s never the guns, it’s anything else, from his disinformation about video games to conflating mental illness with gun violence. This is clearly a poor path to public health.
- When the White House tells the CDC that the agency cannot say or write seven words or phrases–“fetus,” “evidence-based,” “science-based” “diversity,” “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement”–without losing funding, that is pure politics, not caretaking public health. Stay in your lane, Trump. You know nothing about the CDC or its mission. You are sacrificing public health for your petty culture war agenda.
- CDC has been approached several times by health care providers to declare racism a threat to public health. In another era, with a less obdurate ruler so invested in scoring political points with an overwhelmingly white voter base, this might easily result in significant efforts to promote solutions that might lead to a mitigation of terrible health outcome disparities. When Native peoples, African Americans, and Hispanic citizens die from heart disease and other maladies at much higher rates why create a political culture of fear at federal agencies?
- The surest cure for poor health outcomes is universal health care, however that is arrived at–by a public option or by a complete overhaul of what we have. But what we have now is a regime dedicated to removing more Americans from health insurance programs. Our nation’s morbidity and mortality statistics versus those of countries who do have a version of single payer health insurance are abysmal.
- Trump tweeted recently that if anyone tries to remove him from office there will be Civil War. Now armed militias are forming. This direct threat to public health is evocative of the US Senate in late 1860, immediately following Lincoln’s election, when South Carolina Senator James Chesnut led the exodus and it was not long before secession of states led to the Civil War, taking more American lives than any war in US history.
- Trump’s latest travesty is to throw as many as 700,000 Americans off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–SNAP–which will be a truly harsh health impact for many, including children and disabled people whom Trump expects to punish if they can’t find enough work to buy food.
- Mental health care has come under greater demand than ever since the 2016 campaign, with some providers reporting a five-fold increase in enrolled members seeking therapy–from the increase in hate crimes to the ramp-up of objectifying presidential rants, this toxic zeitgeist is showing elevated pathologies.
- Immigrants are under enormous stress, including actual US citizens, a proven impact on health. Caging babies? Tearing them away from their parents? Parents whose “crime” is fleeing from violence?
- Expressed racism–calling refugees “animals”or calling African countries “shithole”–has direct physiological harmful effects, from increased cortisol production to flooding the heart with stress.
- Virulent obstruction and opposition to women’s reproductive rights is a direct Trump threat to the physical and emotional health of more than 50 percent of Americans. Veering wildly away from basic human rights, Trump has ordered his State Department to censor any mention of women’s reproductive rights from their annual human rights report.
- Funding for mental health care for military members is woefully inadequate–in an era when Trump is radically increasing funding for more nuclear weapons–the ultimate threat ever made to public health.
- Eviscerating environmental laws will affect public health for generations. All the work we put into getting these critical laws passed using the tough but proper democratic process–almost always from the grassroots impetus–is just trashed.
Trump has zero medical training and obviously never took the Hippocratic Oath, which is the foundation of a professional commitment to proper care.
We need to save American lives now. The best remedy would be to annul an illegitimate election. At the very least, impeach. And keep impeaching until we get some good governance.
Leslie Gregory is a PA-C focusing on Preventive Cardiology and is Executive Director, Right to Health. Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.