We asked U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn the other day whether Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was right to reject Medicaid expansion or whether fellow Republican governors were right to accept it.
“Fallin,” said Coburn.
No hesitation. No spin. No nuance.
Medicaid expansion supporters, Coburn said, “are under the false assumption that the government is going to keep its word.” Fallin has been under intense pressure to accept an offer of 100 percent financing of expansion for three years, followed by 90 percent thereafter. Count us among those who question the math of this offer and therefore question the ultimate wisdom of expansion. Still, it's difficult to turn down “free” money. Federal taxes paid by Oklahomans will flow to states that accept expansion.
But for how long? The “free” money commitment is an airsoft bullet aimed at a hard target. “We won't have the money to give,” Coburn said. “Even in the first couple of years at 100 percent, it won't be there. So if you're betting on getting 90 percent of that refunded to the state, it's a bad bet because it isn't going to happen.”
A growing conservative mantra is that the states will have to bail out the federal government as the nation recovers from the Obama years. Long after the president leaves office, the bills will come due. While he struts on the world stage in his post-presidential years, The Great Divider won't be held accountable for being an unmitigated spendthrift. But today's governors who are still in office will be held accountable.
State government is already covering for Uncle Sam. The University of Oklahoma is assuming the cost of running a Norman airport's control tower because the administration's divide-and-conquer sequestration strategy cut off funding for tower operations.
Oklahoma taxpayers help cover the deduction for high state and local taxes in other states. Will we one day have to bail out California and New York?