Sunday, April 7, 2013

Medicaid expansion: The Kochs call in their chits

Posted By on Sun, Apr 7, 2013 at 7:58 AM

A momentous week lies ahead.

Against all odds, a significant Republican caucus has developed for moving ahead with Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. The rational Republican recognizes the folly of leaving federal billions for other states, while Arkansas, among the most needy, stands on principle and rejects the benefits. The rational Republican acknowledges, too, the hypocrisy factor. The entirety of the Republican campaign in 2012 was to demonize the foreign black man in the White House and particularly his health care plan. That tactic had demonstrable positive impact in the change of Arkansas to a majority Republican legislature.

But the rational are, first, acknowledging that Obamacare is the law of the land. Best to make the best of a bad situation. Not cut off noses to spite faces. And so forth. So they've worked to devise ways to make the medicine go down easier. Thus, the "private option" — never mind that it was an approach Obama himself favored years ago. Thus much talk of preventing fraud and fingerprinting Medicaid recipients and reducing the rolls of "real" Medicaid. Plus, don't forget that taking the federal money will pay for tax cuts for rich people.

The Republicans working against tall odds to put Arkansas on board a plan with undeniable benefits to hospitals, doctors, nurses, the health industry, insurance companies and, almost forgot, hundreds of thousands of working poor people are deserving of praise. Can they bring along enough colleagues to meet the 75-vote minimum in the House? Nobody knows for sure just yet. It should be the cliched no-brainer. But brains have been trumped by emotion repeatedly in the Guns, God and Fetuses Legislative Session of 2013.

All of which is a long runup to an item only meant to make note, with the video above, of the powerful forces at work against reason. The video is from the Arkansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity. It is but one of the political lobbies funded by the billionaire Koch brothers. They hate taxes, hate government regulation and love government support for things like pipelines that carry dangerous Canadian tar sands to their Gulf coast refinery for shipment in finished products to China.

The Kochs and their organization spent at least $1 million, and probably much more through all their alliances and complementary efforts, to elect the Republican majority. Now the pressure is on for their beneficiaries to return their financial favors by voting against an expansion of health care coverage for working Arkansas people and their families. Interestingly, the Kochs haven't been too successful in the Senate, where some of their biggest money was spent on key battles in both primaries and the general election.

Who will govern Arkansas if her own people do not? This week may give a partial answer.

PS — Thought of the Kochs also today reading about one of their many-tentacled influence groups, the American Legislative Exchange Council. It produces cookie-cutter Koch philosophy legislation for introduction by willing state legislators. Did you know their work includes efforts to stymie the work of people fighting animal cruelty? ALEC is behind the effort to make it a crime to shoot undercover video of cruelty to animals. The Farm Bureau, until the Kochs came along the most retrograde lobby in Arkansas, is right in there with them on this, of course.

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