Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wonks vs firebaggers on Medicaid expansion

I've been reading two schools of thought on the left about whether conservative (esp. Southern) states will eventually sign on to the Medicaid expansion in the ACA.

On the side of the wonks are people like Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum who are making the case for the financial benefits of expansion. And, interestingly enough, you have firebaggers like emptywheel and David Dayen who are suggesting that logic and financial arguments won't be enough to overcome the root of their resistance - which is all about race. Here's emptywheel:
Already, my anecdotal experience is that a proportion of voters in the states in question claim that the first black President has spent his first term making sure that people of color get more than their fair share of benefits (I think they make this argument based on expanded food stamp usage, though of course the argument is not coherent). The GOP frame for the Medicaid argument will not focus at all on insuring the uninsured. It will not breathe a word of how insured people subsidize uninsured people who use emergency rooms for care. Rather, it will extend and enlarge on this argument about a black President giving free stuff to black people (or Latinos in states like Texas).
To me, there's no question that the firebaggers are right when it comes to being honest about what will motivate this resistance. All we have to do is remember that moment when Rick Santorum accidentally slipped and abandoned the dog whistles for a moment on the subject of Medicaid.

The truth is...racism trumps financial concerns. If we hadn't already learned that from the history of Jim Crow days, then this country's willingness to spend billions to incarcerate black people at a truly alarming rate should seal the deal.

But once we know that, we are faced with the challenge of how to make the argument. I'd venture a suggestion that simply calling Gov. Jindal racist when/if he doesn't expand Medicaid is not likely change his mind - nor affect most of the voters in Louisiana.

And that's where the wonk's arguments come in. Imagine laying Ezra Klein's argument out to Gov. Jindal and then asking him why he wants to penalize his state financially. Is he really willing to punish the entire state simply to avoid the prospect that some black and brown people might benefit?

We have to expose the racism that is at the heart of conservative reaction to the social safety net. That's a challenge that will require appeals to both morality and logic.

P.S. Food for thought: Were the Montgomery Bus Boycotts a financial or moral argument? Was non-violent resistance to Jim Crow a financial or moral argument?


  1. Your average person (mostly white middle class) believes that this Black president (and Democrats in general) will give the shop away to the
    undeserving poor (Black or brown person).

  2. The wonks are correct, the right wing lunatics will probably be among the first to grab the Medicaid funds when it becomes available. Just remember these are the same people who railed against the stimulus but were begging for the funds in the background. They see nothing wrong in doing both.

  3. The policy itself can influence the politics of it, and this is what the firebagger crowd misses. They (tend to) take the electorate, in this case the white electorate, as a static mass. The bigotries we now see always have been and always were.

    Of course we know that racist sentiment formed likely the strongest source of opposition among working whites to various social programs proposed since the New Deal, particularly in health care. However, though things like the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts produced lots of white backlash, we do have a Black President. The coalition that made Obama possible may not have had a majority of whites in it, but the whites who were in it helped push its numbers up into a majority.

    Lots of white people, including people who are functionally quite racist, saw the post 1965 United States and realized that their world didn't end. They stepped forward.

    Some white people, maybe many, will do the same when they, previously uninsured, get sick for the first time and the ACA makes their care possible. Many or even most won't connect the dots but many will. Those people we can add later on to our coalition. They will continue to have a lot of work to do on themselves, but I certainly do myself so there you are.

    That idiot GOP staffer who taunted the reported about being in the reality based community, saying that he and his type created facts, wasn't entirely wrong about the possibility of doing so. He just had no idea HOW to do so. We create a new electorate with good policy, ever so slowly.

  4. When has a governor not taken federal money? It's popular to be against it now. In a few years they're going to act as if they didn't take the stances that they took. If the Repubs in congress are smart they would do likewise sometime after the Olympics.


  5. 'Afternoon, Ms. Pants

    Both were moral arguments. Arguments, if you will, with the approach of non-violence used as a tactic. As you have pointed out, one of the chief if not THE chief successes of Dr. King was that he crystallized the efforts of MANY people such that black folk didn't have to live in rank TERROR. So, in essence, America, the question remains the same. Do you mean those lofty soundin' ideas or not? Therein...

    I submit that that is why the President's message will resonate with more people. It's about liberty, equality, and justice. As opposed to: 'actually, it's just to give thems that got a WHOLE lot more and believe that they benevolently will trickle scraps to the undeserving'.

    And, it's the exact same message/argument/ideal/vision that this place is supposed to be founded upon. The problem, of course, is that, at its inception, it really wasn't supposed to include people who were hues of brown, women, or people who didn't fit easily into "standard" boxes of sexuality.

    You explain repeatedly (and PLEASE continue) what the current tactic iteration that the President is using to bring the vision of America into sharper focus.

    But, there VERY much is a moral matter underneath. And, it's BED ROCK.