With all due respect to Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, and as a fan of his website I mean that sincerely, I couldn’t disagree more with his defense of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s decision to accept ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.
Like other Republican governors who’ve flipped on the issue, Scott announced last week that even though he remains philosophically opposed to ObamaCare, he would accept at least the law’s Medicaid expansion for the next three years because federal taxpayers – not the state – would pick up the entire price tag. Like many of the other capitulators, Scott claims that because the Supreme Court ruled ObamaCare constitutional, it doesn’t make financial sense for Florida residents to pay for ObamaCare through fees and penalties while other Medicaid-expanding states reap a windfall.
Ruddy defends Scott’s about-face with two arguments I don’t find compelling.
Scott has also made it clear that he has not agreed to continue the Medicaid expansion beyond three years, when federal funding will drop to 90 percent, and Florida could opt out at that point.
Let’s get real. Once a state accepts more federal dollars and grows a politically sensitive program like Medicaid, the trend is to grow, not cut back.
Moreover, Scott’s calculation betrays a canny reading of the political calendar. He’s up for reelection in November 2014, but will get credit for expanding Medicaid at no cost to state taxpayers in January of that year. If successful in his bid, Scott can continue to enjoy favorable press until January 2017 when the federal largesse starts receding and Floridians start feeling the cost of all that “free” healthcare. But by the time that happens Scott will be wrapping up his second term, and handing off that political football to a predecessor.
Which brings us to Ruddy’s other unpersuasive argument:
So governors like Scott and [Arizona’s Jan] Brewer have to put aside their personal views and accept the reality of the situation.
Since when do conviction conservatives want one of their own – as the Tea Party-backed Rick Scott claimed to be in 2010 – to “put aside their personal views” in favor of growing government?
The “reality of the situation” with ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion is that it’s completely voluntary. Any governor that accepts its terms is intentionally saddling his or her state’s future taxpayers with a costly new entitlement that will be impossible to scale back through the political process.
After all, if politicians like Scott can’t weather the storm of saying no to entitlement increases when they don’t even exist, how does it pass the laugh test to think he’ll have the political courage to scale back when the feds re-impose reality?
To be fair, Ruddy isn’t alone trying to defend the indefensible. Charles Krauthammer is singing a similar tune. But again, with all due respect, it’s just not true that you can claim to be a fiscal conservative and then capitulate on something as basic as a budget-busting expansion of Medicaid.