The season finale of Roseanne aired last night, and there was a moment in the middle of the episode, in which an exasperated Dan is wading around in his flooded basement “hanging on by the fingertips” as one calamity on top of another befalls the Conners that felt, for a brief time, like the old Roseanne. Roseanne was suffering from an opioid addiction; she needed to pay the $4,000 deductible for a knee surgery; the basement was flooded and the foundation to their house damaged; and Dan had to sell out his best friend and hire “illegals” on a construction contract so he could pay for his wife’s surgery.
“I spent my whole life hanging on by my fingertips, telling everybody not to worry, that I was going to make it OK, because that’s my job,” Dan tells his best friend, Chuck, explaining why he had to hire undocumented workers. “Well, now I can’t promise that anymore, so, yeah, it makes me sick, but I’m gonna do whatever I have to do to take care of my family, because I’m old, I’m tired, and I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on.”
It’s the kind of performance that Goodman will probably parlay into the Emmy nomination, but more importantly, this is what so many families living at or below the poverty line experience. As I’ve written before, when you’re shit poor, bad luck follows you around.
But when you’re shit poor, Donald Trump doesn’t bail you out, as he did the Conners in the season finale, because Donald Trump doesn’t give a shit about poor people. The episode ends with Trump declaring — on Twitter — a state of emergency in Illinois, meaning that Dan can use FEMA money to repair his basement with enough left over to pay the deductible on his wife’s surgery and there will be plenty of construction work available for Dan and his union workers. MAGA saves the day!
But here are a few ironies in this storyline, in which Trump is depicted as the God-like savior bestowing his gifts on the poor via Twitter. The union that Dan belongs to? Trump is against them. The “illegals” that Dan wanted to hire because he couldn’t afford union workers? Trump wants to deport them all. Roseanne is also an Uber driver, which means she gets paid shit, and Trump has opposed efforts by Uber drivers to unionize and earn better wages and benefits.
The state of emergency that Trump declared? He’d probably drag his feet on that, too, in Illinois, which is a blue state, and Trump has illustrated time and again that he cares less about people who don’t vote for him (see, e.g., Puerto Rico).
The opioid addiction that Roseanne is suffering from? Trump talks big about opioids, but he doesn’t actually spend much to fund the problem and his efforts to cut back on Medicaid would only worsen the epidemic.
Moreover, the EBT cards that Roseanne used in episode 7? If it were up to Trump, those cards would be replaced by “food boxes,” essentially allowing the government to choose the foods she and her family could eat (which would have made Roseanne’s pre-surgery feast a very sad affair). In that same episode, the Conners lost their Internet connection. Obama classified Internet connections as a “utility” under his Net Neutrality rule, which is being revoked under Trump’s FCC, which also means that 70 percent of poor people — like the Conners — lose their broadband subsidy, which would have made it easier for them to pay the bills.
What’s most interesting, however, is that Roseanne could not afford to pay the $4,000 deductible for her knee surgery. Illinois is a state that benefits from Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, which probably means that the Conners — the entire family — only has health insurance by virtue of Obamacare subsidies. Typically, a knee surgery would cost $50,000, which not even Trump’s deus ex machina would cover. In fact, Trump spent the first year of his Presidency trying to undermine Obamacare, which has resulted in rising premiums in Illinois, and if he’d had his way, the Conners wouldn’t have even received those subsidies to pay for health insurance. Roseanne would be shit out of luck, because you can’t go to the emergency room to get your knee replaced.
All of which is to say: While Trump may have been the episode’s savior, in reality, Obama — or any other President (especially one originally from Illinois, ahem) — would’ve declared the same State of Emergency, but that President also wouldn’t have been as hostile to the very programs and policies that the Conners benefit from each and every day.