Things Republicans Need to Explain

Back in August 2020, which seems like eons ago, the people of Missouri passed a referendum to expand Medicaid, 53.25% to 46.75%. The referendum wrote Medicaid expansion into the state constitution so that the legislature couldn’t pass a bill to nullify it. This means that 275,000 uninsured Missourians would have become eligible for Medicaid on July 1, except that yesterday the Republican-dominated Missouri Senate refused to appropriate money to fund it. Too expensive, they said.

Note that the federal government covers 90 percent of the cost of people covered under the expansion. Note also that the state is in decent financial shape, mostly because it doesn’t spend money on anything that I know of and has received billions in federal aid from the federal government in the past year. Indeed, as I wrote earlier this month, the state is sitting on more than $1 billion in covid aid, going unused. The notion of spending the money to do somethng for citizens is just too radical for Republicans to process, so they haven’t figured out what to do with it..

And Missouri really needs Medicaid expansion. Many of the rural areas of this state are desperately poor. Rural hospitals are closing because people who use them are uninsured and can’t pay their bills. Ten hospitals have closed in Missouri since 2016, half in southeast Missouri, the poorest part of the state. The Republican who represents most of this area in the U.S. House, Jason Smith, has complained that people living in rural areas deserve health care, too. But I don’t see him proposing to do anything specific and tangible about the problem. The free market ain’t gonna do it alone. If the state would expand Medicaid it would at least slow the death spiral of rural hospitals and save some of the ones remaining.

However, as I wrote last year, these same poor rural counties (big time Trump Country!) voted against the expansion. Someone spent a lot of money sending big, glossy postcards to everyone in the state urging them to vote down the referendum. Taxes will go up! Illegal immigrants will get the benefits! Government-run health care! blah blah blah. Fortunately, turnout in urban areas was strong enough to override the rural vote. But that also means the state legislators who are denying Medicaid benefits to poor rural folk probably won’t be punished for it by their voters.

I expect there will be court challenges to the legislature’s decision, but I doubt anything will be resolved before July 1.

So what I want these Republicans to explain is, what do you think government is for?

If it isn’t, for example, to use tax money to provide things people really need that they can’t get for themselves and which will not be provided by private business, then what is it for? Yes, the Preamble calls for government to provide for the common defense. But it also says something about promoting the general welfare, as I recall.

Paul Krugman writes about Joe Biden’s American Families Plan. The main elements of the plan would provide transformational benefits to millions of Americans, he says, and Republicans will never be able to reverse those benefits. “I mean, just imagine trying to take away affordable child care, universal pre-K and paid leave for new parents once they’ve become part of the fabric of our society,” Krugman writes.

The primary arguments coming from Republicans against these benefits are that raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations will kill jobs, and that the benefits themselves are a huge intrusion into private life. But Krugman painstakingly points out that raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy has never destroyed jobs in the real world, any more than cutting taxes on those same privileged entities has created jobs. And when you compare the tax rates and job availability in other countries, you see the same thing.

However, the Republican obsession with austerity, by which they mean cutting government costs on the backs of the poor, really does hurt the economy.

How can employment be so high in countries with lots of “job-killing” taxes? The answer is that taxes don’t visibly kill jobs — but lack of child care does. Parents in many rich countries are able to take paid work because they have access to safe, affordable child care; in the United States such care is prohibitively expensive for many, if they can get it at all. And the reason is that our government spends almost nothing on child care and pre-K; our outlays as a percentage of G.D.P. put us somewhat below Cyprus and Romania.

Conservatives from Miz Lindsey to columnist Henry Olson have complained recently that the increased unemployment benefits people have been receiving have kept them from going back to work, which is hitting restaurants hard. So we’ve got to squeeze the peasants enough to get them back into the kitchen. This is how conservatives think.

See also Michelle Goldberg’s America Is Brutal to Parents. Biden Is Trying to Change That. In the U.S., trying to balance a job and family responsibilities can be genuinely brutal, and how much it holds back women with children is incalculable. Among other things, Goldberg writes,

There are several reasons our domestic policy has long been uniquely hostile to parents, but two big ones are racism and religious fundamentalism. Essentially, it’s been politically radioactive for the federal government to support Black women who want to stay home with their kids, and white women who want to work.

Without reliable and very inexpensive day care, low-income mothers are pretty much screwed. If they have to pay for day care, taking a minimum-wage job may make them worse off, financially and any other way, than staying home. And if taking a job with no health benefits gets them dropped from Medicaid, they are doubly screwed. I’ve tried for years to explain that to Republicans, and it’s like talking to a lamp post.

So, what is government for? In Missouri, the people decided that they wanted government to expand Medicaid, and government is refusing to do it. Just because. The Republican chair of the state House Budget Committee has been screaming that Medicaid expansion is a “lie” (?) and it’s his job to save the people of the state from the lie, so he worked hard to block it. (I spent some time googling to find out what this meatball is for. I still don’t know.)

And for that matter, I have not heard that Republicans in the Missouri legislature have given any thought whatsoever to the problem of vanishing rural hospitals. They don’t seem to think that’s their problem.

10 thoughts on “Things Republicans Need to Explain

  1. You asked, maha, what conservatives are "for":

    "For" you staying in your place so they can stay in their place – at least until they finally win the megalottery!  Hell, they're due!  They've been playing their lucky* numbers for decades!!!

    And they are "for": 

    Making sure people they consider to be sub-humans cannot come close to appropriating the same societal and financial status – and the advantages therein.  After all, the world is a "zero-sum" game, and there's no advantage for them in sharing.

    And they're also "for":

    Punishment.  "For" you (especially so if you are from a different tribe).  But not for them.  Whether it's lying, cheating, and/or stealing, if you are caught reaching beyond your station in life – whether it's stealing or striving – you must be punished.  But if they do it, it's them reaching up and out in their pursuit of "The American Dream!"  And besides, it's "God's will."

    And finally, they are "for":

    Whining and complaining about how others and the Fates are screwing them and taking what rightfully their's, and their's alone!

    *Yeah, you get it.

  2. “I mean, just imagine trying to take away affordable child care, universal pre-K and paid leave for new parents once they’ve become part of the fabric of our society,” Krugman writes.

    That's the whole issue in a single sentence. Once conservatives discover that redistribution of wealth from the very top to the very bottom works, you will never get the genie back in the bottle.

    By "redistribution of wealth" I mean, the very rich pay for access to medical care for those without. The very rich assume the financial cost through taxes to deal with homelessness. It becomes standard – no child in America goes hungry. 

    Krugman gets it. If we find out we can take away the power from the wealthy, they are screwed. They know it.

  3. It sounds like the Republicans want a constitutional  crisis in Missouri.  Republicans have gotten that way recently, what one might call a bit pig headed.  Wallowing around at the public trough throwing their weight around even after they lose elections.  Oinking patriotism while they defile democracy.  This odd-toed ungulate behavior needs curtailment. 

    Michele Goldberg's columns always tend  to inspire excellent comments.  This one from Kathy Lollock of Santa Rosa. CA is a great example of needed Republican explanation or even remediation.

    I studied the demeanor of those Senate Reps yesterday evening during President Biden's address. From Cruz, to Graham, to McConnell, and yes, to Romney, they all sat stone still, eyes lifeless, almost hostile. Yes, we have the Pandemic and job losses, along with infrastructure and immigration problems. Then there is the ever-threatening presence of global warming and climate change along with inadequate health care for too many Americans. Yet at the pinnacle of this mountain of challenges and struggles is the need of parents and their children, our children, our future. Michelle has written about both racism and religion as two of the main reasons for such disdain to help our mothers and fathers. Yet, I will add one other factor, primarily manifested by Republican politicians and the lobbyists within whose back pockets the GOP reside: that is Greed, pure and simply.


  4. So what I want these Republicans to explain is, what do you think government is for?

    Surely you know by now, They Don’t Care. They want government out of the way. It’s like asking hyenas about libraries. It’s pointless to ask.

    OT, great article in Vanity Fair about the marriage of George and Kellyanne Conway. Of course she’s got a big book deal in the works.

  5. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said "I love my country but hate my government". 

    Republicans consider these "citizens" as their base and will not welcome any rational, logical and truthful explanations answering what government is for. Pardon my ending a sentence with a preposition.

    The statement of loving my country and hating my government, simultaneous opposing thoughts and believing both to be true is straight out of Eric Blair.

  6. "Explain" is a category error.  What does a stand-up comedian need to explain?  It is all performance: affect, gesture, allegory, metonymy, allusion, misdirection, and none of it is dependent upon the "meanings" of "words": it would work just as well, and in exactly the same ways, in a language that the audience did not understand.

    Trying to engage any of this at the level of rational discourse is like looking for the control panel for the burglar alarm in a burning house.  It is just completely beside the point.  The primal scream has no syntax, and there are only two options: soothe it or smother it — unless, that is, you like the sound of the primal scream.

  7. Excellent piece. The scary thing is, they will never explain it, and don’t feel they have to. They know their voters will believe someone else got the benefits that they deserved, and it was the liberals/Democrats/Biden’s fault. 

  8. Republicans have been doing some explaining it seems.  When faced with  defamation suits near $2,000,000.000.00 they start seeing reality.  It seems Dominion and other voting machine companies have been damaged by the "big lie" and  many right wing propaganda puppets are heading for cover, one would guess on the advice of their legal teams.  From a Washington Post story:

    The slow, painful death of Trump allies’ voting-machine conspiracy theories – The Washington PostThe slow, painful death of Trump allies’ voting-machine conspiracy theories – The Washington Post

    Below is a timeline of how such claims against both Dominion and another voting-machine company, Smartmatic, have been effectively disowned.

    Dec. 18-20: Fox News and Fox Business Network run a deposition-esque segment featuring an expert dismissing various voting-machine claims on three shows which had featured such claims, after Smartmatic issued a legal demand letter. (Fox would later sideline a host of one of the shows, Lou Dobbs, despite his show being the highest-rated one on FBN.)

    Dec. 20-21: Newsmax posts a statement, which a host reads on-air, clarifying that the channel has not proved such claims, while arguing that it also hadn’t stated that the claims as true.

    Feb. 2: Newsmax attempts to stop MyPillow CEO and Trump supporter Mike Lindell from making claims about Dominion during an interview. A host reads a legal disclaimer while talking over Lindell and later walking off the set when Lindell refused to yield. “We just want to let people know that there’s nothing substantive that we have seen,” the host says.

    Jan. 15: The right-wing American Thinker blog issues a full-throated apology and retraction of voting-machine stories written by four authors, calling the sources behind them “discredited” and saying their “statements are completely false and have no basis in fact.”

    Jan. 20: It is reported that One America News, despite criticizing its competitor Newsmax for caving to legal pressure, removed a number of stories about voting machines from its website, without formally retracting them.

    Feb. 1: In a New York Times story, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel acknowledges that she worried about legal liability from the RNC hosting a news conference in which Trump lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell made various unproven claims about the election.

    Feb. 4: WABC, the radio station that hosts Giuliani’s show, runs a disclaimer distancing itself from claims made on his show. Giuliani says he was unaware the disclaimer would be aired, labeling it “rather insulting.”

    Feb. 5: While airing Lindell’s documentary, OAN runs an extensive disclaimer. Despite Lindell claiming “absolute proof” — and that being the actual title of the documentary — OAN says claims in the documentary “are not intended to be taken or interpreted by the viewer as established facts.”

    March 22: Powell files a motion to dismiss Dominion’s lawsuit against her. But rather than standing by her claims, she says “reasonable people” wouldn’t take them as fact and that she was merely acting as a legal advocate. This despite Powell having said repeatedly that she had irrefutable proof backing up her claims, frequently labeling the release of such information the “Kraken.”

    April 28: A lawsuit brought by eight voters claiming a massive conspiracy involving Dominion and various state officials is dismissed. A judge dismisses the case because the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to bring it, but also notes there are myriad reasons to dismiss the case and adds that the plaintiffs “have voluntarily dismissed the claims against the various state officials” in the alleged conspiracy.

    April 30: Newsmax issues its apology to Coomer as part of an apparent settlement with Dominion. The channel disowns claims made about Coomer that he interfered with voting machines and had ties to antifa. “Newsmax subsequently found no evidence that such allegations were true,” the apology says. “Many of the states whose results were contested by the Trump campaign after the November 2020 election have conducted extensive recounts and audits, and each of these states certified the results as legal and final.”


  9. The GOP knows that the only explanations they need are "believe nonsense, or else we will smear you" or "cant you take a joke" or "scary Marxists are scaring me".

    • That should actually be "scary imaginary Marxists are really scaring me".

      "There are so many scary things in the world that I can not explain or understand but I can understand that scary imaginary Marxists are really scaring me and I suspect that there is a scary illegal alien living in my crawl-space that I am really scared of so we have to spend billions on a border wall because I am scared that the illegal is right now taking my potential job as a vegetable picker and that is scary."

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