by Max Brantley
U.S. Supreme Court ratification of the Affordable Health Care Act didn't tamp down Republican opposition to universal health care, it set it afire. Republican groups and affiliated parties are in a near frenzy to beat health care expansion by political means. They see it as a ticket to November election success.
As I've said before, they may be right. Voters WILL vote against self-interest if told enough lies. Arkansas voters — among the country's poorest and most in need — HAVE voted against the evil of providing every needy mother and child with health services.
In that vein, I noticed some comments last night from a Republican-supported event to stir up opposition to universal health care.
* REP. DAVID MEEKS: From a comment on the health care meeting: "Meeks says if all 50 states rejected #medicaid, it would save the federal government over $1.5 trillion." And think how much more we'd save if we also killed the existing Medicaid program, Medicare and food stamps. Let them get hungry, sick and die if they can't pay their own way.
* SEN. JOHNNY KEY: Commenting on a news story: "And taxpayers have to pay for this idiocy. “@BXSO1: Two inmates in hospital serious condition after drinking bleach from cleaning cart.” Indeed, prison health care is crazy expensive. Let 'em get sick and die.
* SEN. JASON RAPERT: Another comment from health meeting: "@jasonrapert says Arkansas will be "candy land" if we are only state in the region to expand #medicaid." Arkansas a Land of Opportunity for humane treatment and a healthy populace? Over our dead — and I do mean dead — bodies! Rapert was also quoted as saying, "The Obama admin wants single-payer. Bottom line." Sadly, this is a lie.
You get the drift. It's a simple divide. As a matter of philosophy, Republicans do not believe in universal health care if it means a universally shared burden for providing for those unable to provide for themselves, or too sick to qualify for health insurance. They believe a majority of Arkansans — including tens of thousands who demonstrably CANNOT pay for their health insurance — will elect them in November on the strength of this belief. Again, they may be right.
Apart from the core issue — a great country would join the rest of the developed world and guarantee health care for its people — there are practical considerations. As noted here, there's a tremendous stimulative effect from health care spending. Republicans tend to dismiss this as a trivial argument. Yet, just today, in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, appears an article in which leading Republicans say the state simply isn't giving enough taxpayer money away to aid the development of private technology companies. Direct taxpayer subsidies to private businesses — good. This is free enterprise. Direct taxpayer subsidies to doctors to aid public health of Arkansas citizens — bad. This is socialism.