Thursday, March 21, 2013

Medicaid Expansion bill would provide access to affordable health care to citizens who currently have no hope of access, while creating new sustainable good jobs to strengthen the economy, yet Montana Republicans refuse to support it.

According to this morning's edition of the Helena Independent Record, one of the Governor's signature proposals, the Medicaid Expansion bill, HB 590, is "likely dead in the Republican controlled committees at the Legislature."  The House Human Services Subcomittee will hear testimony on the bill next Monday, but the article's author states that it is expected to be killed by the 10-6 Republican majority.  The chairman and his committee members are opposed to the Affordable Care Act and to expanding government-funded health care.  "We've opposed the ACA all along."

So what this all boils down to is that Republicans' primary objective to kill government supported services is more important than the well-being and economic security of the citizens of their state, no matter have badly the services might be needed or how much they would contribute to job creation.  

We must begin to clearly articulate the root causes of problems, the motives behind those that cause the problems, and make them crystal clear to the voters if we are to ever have any chance of reclaiming the American Dream for our children and grandchildren.  We "grey beards" were fortunate to have experienced the period of greatest American prosperity, from the 1940s through the mid-1970s when the American Dream was a reality. 

Conservatives' ideological "one solution fits all problems" twin objectives of (1) forced austerity government budgets coupled with (2) corporate tax breaks and deregulation to force privatization of  public services have repeatedly been proven to fail.  Their only result from this ideology is the sucking of wealth from the middle class into the atmospheric reaches of the ultra-wealthy.

Taking another try at using the Medicaid Expansion issue  as a "teachable moment," I wrote a guest editorial that was published by the Helena IR last Monday.

Accepting Medicaid Expansion is a win-win opportunity

The Montana legislature is considering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to approve the creation of the biggest jobs program of the past several decades, while improving the health of its citizens.  Medicaid Expansion, House Bill 590, has been introduced by Representative Chuck Hunter.   

According to a report by the UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Medicaid expansion will create 13,000 to 14,000 new jobs, and at the same time provide access for affordable health care insurance for as many as 78,000 low-income Montanans who would go without health insurance if Medicaid expansion were not approved. The program costs will be 100% funded by the federal government the first three years and 90% of the cost in each year thereafter. 

How is it possible that the Republican controlled legislature might reject this incredible opportunity?  Why would the legislature block the creation of sustainable good paying jobs and the improvement of health care for our state’s citizens?  

Montana’s Republican legislators have said they will not support Medicaid expansion because they are concerned about the program’s impact on the federal government’s budget. They claim the federal government is broke, the deficit is out of control, and it will have to borrow from China, burdening our children and grandchildren with huge debt the will have to pay off.

None of these claims are true.  All are myths and utter nonsense, propagated by small-government ideologues whose purpose is to scare citizens into accepting cuts to our safety net programs and privatizing our public services.  

The facts pertinent to our federal government’s role in our economy include the following:
·         After WWII, the federal debt-to-GDP ratio was 120%, much higher than the 70% debt-to-GDP ratio of today.  Yet, the government increased spending, the country’s economy grew, and unemployment decreased to near zero.  That period was the most prosperous period in our history.  That war debt has never been paid off, yet our economy has grown substantially and we have not been crippled by the WWII debt of our parents.

·         The United States government does not borrow money from China.  China obtains U.S. currency by selling Chinese-produced goods to American corporations that end up on our store shelves (like Wal-Mart).  They use their cash from these private sector transactions to buy U.S. bonds that earn interest.

·         When the federal government spends more in a year than it takes in from taxes, the excess money stays in our pockets.  We are never asked to pay it back!  During times of depressed economic activity like we have today, federal government deficit spending is necessary to put people back to work and put the economy back on track for growth.

·         Only our federal government can coin or print money and regulate the value thereof (U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 8).  As the sole source of all dollars in the world’s economy, the federal government can never go broke.

We must learn from history, stop obsessing over our national deficit, and recognize that the real crisis is the enormous wealth gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of us and the lack of good paying sustainable jobs that provide economic freedom for our citizens.  It is good paying jobs that create the demand to enable our local businesses to flourish and grow.  

Our leaders should be concentrating on funding real job creation as they did in the post-WWII economy.  Our federal government is strong and has the resources to move us forward; that is, unless our politicians choose austerity over infrastructure investments.

As a start, we must approve Medicaid expansion for Montana.   Medicaid Expansion will help ignite sustainable growth of Montana’s economy, bringing the right kind of new jobs to our state, jobs that improve the health of all Montanans and build a brighter future for our children.

Please ask your legislators to vote to accept Medicaid Expansion.

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