The Slatest

GOP’s Most Embarrassing Congressman Strikes Again, Says Americans Should Pay for Health Care by Forgoing iPhones

Jason Chaffetz, midgaffe.

Screenshot/CNN via Twitter

Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the House Oversight Committee chairman who came to national prominence by repeatedly failing to uncover any evidence that Hillary Clinton had behaved inappropriately during the Benghazi fiasco, has had a not-great time of it during the Trump administration. First, on Inauguration Day, he shook Hillary’s hand with a smile on his face, then, later—from the safety of a computer—captioned a photo of their meeting with the snotty declaration that he was “so pleased she is not the President,” which may be the most hilariously chickenshit move in Washington’s storied history of chickenshit moves. Then he made national news for getting heavily booed and heckled by his own constituents over his spineless ongoing failure, as the leader of an investigatory committee, to investigate any of the 1 billion obvious black holes of sleaze that the Trump administration should be investigated for. Then he compounded the embarrassment by complaining that said constituents—who included an 11-year-old girl who asked him if he believed in science—had conspired to “bully and intimidate” him. Poor guy!

And that all happened before what may become Chaffetz’s most enduring moment of Trump-era buffoonery: Claiming, on Tuesday morning during a CNN discussion of the GOP’s new Affordable Care Act replacement bill, that more Americans would be able to afford health care without government subsidies if they stopped wasting their money on extravagant frivolities like having a telephone:

“Americans have choices. And they’ve gotta make a choice. So maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love, and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on it, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.”

The average annual health insurance premium for a U.S. family in 2016, by one measure, was $18,142. A new iPhone 7 from Verizon costs $649. The cheapest cellphone that Verizon sells online costs $49. So, let’s assume you’re the breadwinner for this average U.S. family and that you buy a new phone every two years. By getting the cheap phone instead of the iPhone, you’re saving $600 during a period that you’ll owe $36,284 in premiums. Congratulations, you’re 1.7 percent of the way to insuring your family! Hope you like eating dirt and tree bark.

Chaffetz is already backpedaling on the comments, saying in a subsequent Fox News appearance that he didn’t deliver his message as “smoothly” as he could have. True. But then again, the idea that economic self-reliance is of such paramount importance that the government should let working-class Americans die in gutters before it pays for their health care by taxing millionaires has actually been the official position of the American right wing for decades. What did Chaffetz do wrong, really, aside from having let himself become indoctrinated by the idea that not being able to pay $18,142 to a hugely profitable private insurance company is a sign that you’re a shiftless ape?