Thursday, April 10, 2014

A politics that's "almost awesome in its evilness"

For those of you who are actually interested in a thoughtful discussion about Obamacare, I'd suggest you listen to this conversation between Harold Pollack and Jonathan Gruber (or you can read the transcript at the link).

At the end, this exchange is critical:
Harold: One of the things that’s really striking to me is there’s a politics of impunity towards poor people, particularly non-white poor people that is almost a feature rather than a bug in the internal politics in some of these states, not to cover people under Medicaid, even if it’s financially very advantageous to do so. I think there’s a really important principle to defeat this politically, not just because Medicaid is important for people, but because it’s such a toxic political perspective that has to be … It has to be shown that that approach to politics doesn’t work because otherwise, we will really be stuck with some very unjust policies that will be pursued with complete impunity in some of these places.

Jon: That’s a great way to put it. There’s larger principles at stake here. When these states are turning – not just turning down covering the poor people – but turning down the federal stimulus that would come with that.

Harold: Yeah.

Jon: So the price they are willing … They are not just not interested in covering poor people, they are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.
(Emphasis mine)

If we were to listen to Jonathan Chait, we'd need to give these Republican governors/legislatures the benefit of the doubt that their rejection of Medicaid was based on sound ideological beliefs about doing the right thing for (particularly non-white) poor people. But as Pollack and Gruber are pointing out - its not just bad for poor people, its bad for their state's economies. Yet they're willing to forgo that for a politics that punishes poor people. I am reminded of the price many states are willing to pay to maintain the prison industrial complex even though less expensive alternatives have proven themselves to be more effective.

When the price of maintaining hatred hits Republicans in the pocketbook and they're still willing to pay it - we've gone way beyond the simplistic ideological explanations they so often use to obscure it. We've actually entered a territory that is "almost awesome in its evilness." I think Pollack and Gruber are right to point that out.

1 comment:

  1. The second paragraph of the second quote in BooMan's new article completely explains this for me:
    For clarity, the paragraph that begins: "Finally, they believe themselves to be the true heirs of the real America. They are the ones who are entitled to inherit the bounty of the American system. It’s their birthright—as native-born, white American men."


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