Several conservatives, desperate to develop a response to the shooting in Connecticut that doesn’t involve restricting access to deadly weapons, have proposed improving mental health care or hiring more police officers. These ideas aren’t necessarily bad ones, though it’s worth noting the mentally ill aren’t actually more prone to violence. Nor are these ideas mutually exclusive with common-sense gun control.
The real problem with them is that they have little chance of becoming law, because national and state level Republicans have consistently attempted to slash government spending on mental health care and public employees like police.
The biggest expansion of mental health care in recent years came in the Affordable Care Act, which, of course, Republicans tried to fully repeal. Many House Republicans also voted against a Bush-era move towards requiring insurers to treat mental illness like physical illnesses.
State Republicans have frustrated another major attempt to increase access to mental health services: the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is the single largest payer of mental health care in the country, as treatment remains prohibitively expensive for many poor and middle-class Americans. But only one Republican Governor has agreed to accept federal funding for expanding Medicaid services.
The Congressional GOP’s plan to block grant Medicaid would only exacerbate this problem. Moreover, budget cutting during the Great Recession has slashed state funding for mental health care, a steep decline that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) proposed to accelerate after the shooting in Connecticut.
The GOP record on funding police departments in recent years is equally dismal. Red states have been responsible for the bulk of cuts to public sector jobs during the Recession, which result in significant cuts to police forces (and teachers, incidentally).
The American Jobs Act would provide significant support for state hiring of more police, but House and Senate Republicans have obstructed the bill for over a year. And the House Republican budget could very well cut federal grants that allow states to hire new police officers.