Herb Paine: Political Priorities and Medicaid Expansion

June 12, 2013

Our politics is stuck in a crossfire of proverbs that have increasingly little to do with solving the real problems of real people.

•    A penny saved is a penny earned!
•    You must spend money to make money!
•    Be the change that you wish to see in the world!
•    Don’t tread on me!

Each adage reflects a world view that has weaved its way into the mind sets of our policy makers and polarized them but done little to create practical solutions that are advancing Arizona.

Sometimes, it just requires real world events to shake us loose from the head-tripping.

For example, look at what happens when natural calamity befalls a community, what do folks do and what do they reasonably expect of their government? Neighbors, nonprofits and government roll up their sleeves. Ideology and moralizing are pretty much out the window as they should be.

The situation is no less severe for those caught in the whirlwind of recession.With limited cash in the bank, many Arizona families have to choose between medicine, food, gas and school supplies, let alone a haircut or a movie.

The fundamental question of public policy has to do with what is right and necessary to relieve economic despair.

The most immediate case in point is the debate in the State Capitol on Medicaid expansion.

Think about it. The core issue is expanding Medicaid to 300,000 low-income Arizonans. That’s about 4.5 percent of the State’s population!

Are we really to believe that the State penny saved is worth the absence of adequate medical care and the costs associated with bad health? That expansion of eligibility for this fraction of society will diminish us rather than elevate our community to a higher standard of stewardship? Hats off to Gov. Jan Brewer for going out on a political ledge and exercising the power of her office to promote the expansion.

I ran into one of our congressmen the other day who put the matter bluntly. He said we are spending more time these days arguing about who is right rather than what is right. Maybe it is not always easy to figure out what is right, but sometimes the facts stare us straight in the face, and aiding 300,000 fellow citizens is not rocket science.

Herb Paine is a business strategy consultant, former candidate for Congress and social critic.

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