No one would accuse Arthur Brooks of being a shrinking violet when it comes to defending a right-wing economic vision. The President of the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has accused President Obama and the Democrats of being opposed to “capitalism” and “free enterprise,” and supports “actual sacrifice” in the form of “cut[ting] spending and reform[ing] entitlements right now.”
So it might surprise some to hear that, when ThinkProgress caught up with him at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this weekend, Brooks delivered a strident critique of the idea that we should cut spending on the poor, particularly in the form of Medicaid.
During his address to the general conference, Brooks said that “austerity always hurts the poor the most,” a point which, as he noted, is borne out by the European experience. When ThinkProgress asked Brooks to expand his comments, the topic of Medicaid came up. Here’s what he had to say:
BEAUCHAMP: Medicaid, do you think it needs to be “fundamentally reformed” — that is to say, cut?
BROOKS: I think it needs to be reformed, but not necessarily cut. There’s a lot of things we can do. My own view is that even if we didn’t reform anything for the poorest members of society we could afford it…I wanna make sure the poor are not left out in the cold. So even if we didn’t reform anything at the bottom end, and did everything at the top end, we could do a lot better than we are today. The wrong position is to say we start with cutting programs for the poor.
Two-thirds of the Ryan-House GOP budget cuts are sliced out of programs for the poor, with Medicaid bearing the brunt of it. Several Republican governors and state legislatures have refused to accept Obamacare Medicaid expansion funding, even though the expansion would help millions of poor Americans access health care at minimal cost. There is little reason to believe that Medicaid, or any other program for the poor, is contributing to a long-term debt crisis that must be solved by cuts today.