This morning, as part of the on-going conservative campaign to cherry-pick and oppose isolated parts of the stimulus package, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough went a step too far, arguing that extending federal funds to cover states’ Medicaid shortfalls “bails out states that haven’t made tough decisions”:
You brought up, for instance, Medicaid. What this spending does is it bails out states that haven’t made tough decisions. The Governors and the state legislators who were responsible aren’t going to be getting as much of the Medicaid money.
Scarborough’s attempt to apply the conservative dogma of ‘responsibility’ and ‘fiscal disciple’ to state Medicaid shortfalls is both confounding and cold-hearted. As Morning Joe guest and TIME columnist Joe Klein asked, “what are these tough decisions Joe? Is it a tough decision to deny treatment to somebody? I think a lot of people need medical care right now.”
Currently, 44 states are budget shortfalls and many are “scrambling for months to cut aid to schools, universities and, increasingly, residents who rely on the state for medical care.” Meanwhile, the economic crisis is making people sicker and increasing the rolls of the uninsured, forcing many Americans to rely on state-sponsored safety-net programs like Medicaid and SCHIP. Growing health costs are “the primary driver of the fiscal challenges facing the state and local sector over the long term” and according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a 1 percent expansion in unemployment results in 1 million more people enrolling in Medicaid and SCHIP and increases state spending by $1.4 billion.
Far from rewarding bad behavior, giving states federal dollars to plug their budget holes: 1) allows states to keep up with growing enrollments 2) injects more money into the health care system 3) ensures that states aren’t forced to increase taxes or cut other essential services.
But Scarborough is a traditional knee-jerk ideologue, attempting to fit his square ideology into the round peg of today’s economic crisis.