It’s been a whole year of this, and from the get-go it was clear: Donald Trump is the reigning king of talk. His blustering, unabashed rhetoric taps into a pervasive anger among many Americans while still managing to sidestep any concern for detail or specifics. Like a tyrant or a warlord from another era, Trump manages to rise above the debate itself – which only serves to further entrench his supporters and further infuriate his detractors.
His position on the 9/11 James Zadroga Act — or lack thereof — is a case in point. While “the Donald” may be the first to come down in defense of New York City and its working-class population — as he did in a recent GOP debate — his actions consistently fall short of what anyone would consider “real” support — financial, legislative, or otherwise.
The Zadroga Act: A Brief Overview
The Zadroga Act is a bipartisan law first passed in late 2010. It was designed to provide federal healthcare to tens of thousands of 9/11 First Responders — the firefighters, police officers, and other emergency workers who suffer from inordinately high rates of cancer and lung disease as a result of toiling in the ruins of the World Trade Center.
The bill has faced several stumbling blocks throughout its existence, including a controversial Republican filibuster back in the fall of 2010, when congressional Republicans were concerned about the law’s financial viability. (They were not concerned, mind you, about the financial viability of providing the wealthiest Americans with the largest tax cut in history.) It was eventually passed, and in December it received a permanent extension — thanks in large part to publicity raised by former Daily Show host Jon Stewart. It is expected to cost a grand total of $7 Billion over its permanent extension, which sounds like a lot, but is actually considerably less than the $600 Billion allocated to the defense department — each year.
Talk Is Cheap
Donald Trump — who claims to be a New Yorker, who claims to be grateful to the sacrifices of the First Responders, and who claims to be a friend of the working class — has been conspicuously silent with regards to the Zadroga bill. During the effort to permanently renew the Zadroga Act last fall, Trump’s campaign outright refused to comment on or even acknowledge the bill’s existence. He and his staff did not return many requests to publicly support the bill, nor did they respond to requests for comment from the media. There was only silence.
Despite the absence of anything approaching leadership or outspokenness on the matter — for which he is famous — Trump had the audacity to invoke 9/11 and the resilience of New Yorkers in a recent Republican presidential debate.
“The people in New York fought and fought and fought,” Trump said. “We rebuilt downtown Manhattan.” He later added that he often “thinks about … the firemen that went up those buildings.”
The substance of that thought, however, does not appear to be very compassionate — not when it comes to supporting a measure that would guarantee healthcare coverage for the those very same fireman, many of whom are sick and dying from lung cancers, mesothelioma, and asbestos-caused diseases as a result of their brave sacrifices.
Rich Alles, a deputy chief in the New York City Fire Department, expressed his own frustration with Trump in an interview with ABC News:
“Talk is cheap,” he told the news network. “I’m mortified that he can stand in front of the nation … and wrap himself in the flag.”
In his refusal to do anything more than “think about” them, Trump spurned an opportunity to show real leadership — the kind of leadership that asserts its power and influence for the sake of those who need it — and more importantly, those who deserve it — rather than those who are worried about the contents of their wallet.