Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Republican Party in Missouri has for decades touted itself as the party of fiscal responsibility. This has been a constant rhetoric in party-line arguments. You often hear it from those who support the Republican party as well.

The refrain is that the Republicans will let you keep your money and give you a smaller government. It makes for a good soundbite but, as is the case with most slogans, it doesn't exactly jive with reality. While most sales pitches include some fine print, these claims never do.

What the Republicans fail to explain is that there is an essential and intimate feedback loop between all sectors of the economy. It's a simple matter of supply and demand, and this is especially the case with government services. Often these are essential services provided to people of lesser means but can also include financial help to businesses. The basic idea behind both is that small investments now can lead to greater returns down the road. Often when it comes to social services, people factor in a moral or ethical obligation, which I agree with, but isn't essentially the best argument.

The Republicans in Missouri, however, have proven that short-sited political gain is more important than responsible fiscal governance. Their number one pledge is, "no new taxes," regardless of the nature of the situation. The Republican Majority leader in the U.S. House, Tom DeLay, once said there is no more important goal for a nation at war than to cut taxes. While no one wants to be taxed unnecessarily, revenue has to be collected in some form or another.

Instead Missouri Republican's first order of business has been to eliminate spending in areas they philosophically despise, despite reasonable and practical arguments for their continued existence. The most glaring example would be the recent vote in the Senate to cut medicare to almost 100,000 people in Missouri, mostly women and children with little in the way of financial resources. In other cuts the Republicans clearly demonstrated little care for the effect their actions would have. Governor Matt Blunt said that he was just trying to make changes to the program when he reduced First Steps funding to $0. He barely took the effort to create believable political cover. Blunt has since spent the past months trying to backpedal away from that decision.

The Senate President Pro Tem, Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), acknowledged tonight on the Jaco Report that the individuals cut off form Medicare assistance in Missouri will most likely end up using emergency room services to meet their medical care needs. Gibbons argued that the cuts were not done out of malice towards the poor (which I can believe) but necessary in order to get Missouri's budget under control (which I don't believe). Gibbons said that raising taxes wasn't enough because the costs are increasing at an enormous rate; 1 billion every five years according to Gibbons.

Yet while on it surface that may sound like a reasonable argument it ignores the reality that people will have to get services somewhere and the most likely place will be local emergency rooms. All this does is move the burden of the costs from the state to private interests. In addition, cutting medicare will decrease the chance that people will receive preventative care, which means when they do arrive in already strapped emergency rooms they will be more expensive to treat. These cuts even affect areas like providing crutches and wheelchairs.

The medicare cuts will have an even greater impact because of the resulting loss in federal funds. Any cuts Missouri makes to medicare result in parallel cuts in federal aid. Thus hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cuts to the medicare program as a whole.

One of the driving forces behind the increased cost of medicare is not population growth, but rising health care costs. It costs more money to receive medical care than it did 10 years ago. Asking health care providers to take on the additional burden of tens of thousands of individuals who cannot pay for the services results in increased costs to the providers who must then pass on their increased costs to their paying customers, which includes the government of Missouri as well as its citizens.

As a result, instead of working with medical providers to find effective ways of reducing costs, they simply exacerbate the problem while claiming to be working for fiscal responsibility.

In order to achieve a few narrow-minded philosophical goals, no taxes and no social services, they have increased the price we will all be paying. There is no form of responsibility in modern Republicanism besides these two goals and the citizens of Missouri will bear the brunt of their hostility.

- Murphy

1 comment:

Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.