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Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013

Walker Vs. Wisconsin

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The most extreme Republican governors continue to oppose every move by President Barack Obama, even those that benefit their own states.

That’s the only explanation for Gov. Scott Walker turning down billions of dollars from the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Wisconsinites and instead creating a state system that will cover far fewer people while costing taxpayers about a quarter of a billion dollars more.

“Some people will portray this as not caring about people,” Walker said. “I think it's just the opposite. I care too much about the people of this state not to empower them to control their own destiny.”

It all depends on how you define the people of this state. We’ve always strongly suspected Walker didn’t really consider the poor to be people. You don’t gain any power over your own destiny when your governor continues to deny you health coverage.

But the real surprise is that despite Walker’s constant blather about protecting taxpayers, he apparently isn’t terribly concerned about taxpayers as people, either.

Surely, most Wisconsin taxpayers would prefer to receive roughly $4 billion through 2020 and create 10,000 new jobs to expand Medicaid instead of losing all of that money and paying $250 million more in taxes to cover far fewer people.

No, Walker defines the people he cares about as a much smaller fringe group, the wackier members of the extreme right who oppose expanding health coverage for the poor and want him to continue sabotaging Obamacare instead of allowing state residents to receive any of its benefits.

Walker is one of those health care dead-enders on the far right. They lost when Congress passed Obamacare. They lost again when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law. And they lost big time in November, going down in flames after Republicans promised to destroy all health care improvements on the first day of their presidency.

 

Wisconsinites Will Pay More

Walker has stopped even trying to make sense. Seriously? He cares too much about the people of Wisconsin to allow them to receive a multi-billion dollar tax windfall and better health care?

To understand how nonsensical that is, you need to know how Medicaid costs are split between the state and federal governments.

The federal government pays just under 60% of the cost of patients covered by Medicaid. But starting next January, and continuing for three years through the end of 2016, the federal government is offering to pay 100% of the cost of expanded Medicaid coverage.

Then, yes, the federal share of the cost would gradually be reduced, but to no less than 90% in 2020. Any way you look at it, the overwhelming share of the cost of Medicaid would be paid by the federal government for the next seven years instead of the state paying 40%, as it does now. 

But that won’t happen in a few states—such as Wisconsin—where, to satisfy tea party extremists, Republican governors are refusing all that additional federal money and forcing their own taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more to have fewer people insured.

So how is Walker explaining this incredibly foolish political position? He’s come up with a truly frightening scenario.

The danger, Walker says, is that sometime in the future the federal government could fall into the hands of someone as bad as him or Congressman Paul Ryan. You know, radical conservatives in the mold of Walker and Ryan, who would repeal the Affordable Care Act, gut federal spending for health care and leave states holding the bag.

That apocalyptic vision should keep everyone awake at night, but it still makes more sense to take the federal money now when it’s available to improve our lives for the foreseeable future. If Walker’s doomsday scenario ever comes to pass, we’ll all be wandering the wreckage of a Mad Max America.

The other clichéd right-wing argument against improving health care is much less compelling. Whether it’s federal or state funds paying for health care, it’s all our money, they say, since we pay both federal and state taxes.

Well, yeah. But the Affordable Care Act is federal law. We have to pay our federal taxes whether we get any of the benefits of health care reform or not.

It’s exactly like Walker turning down nearly a billion dollars for high-speed rail in Wisconsin. We didn’t get any reduction in our federal taxes when that money was shifted to other states to improve their economies instead of ours. Our people just lost out on all those economic benefits and jobs.

Now Walker wants to turn down $4 billion more in federal funds to improve health care and create even more jobs.

We know Walker travels outside Wisconsin a lot. It’s starting to look as if he might be a double agent working for some other state.

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