Full Faith and Credit 

Governor Bill Haslam's Republican Problem

Our Republican governor, Bill Haslam, is a pleasant and no doubt well-meaning man, and, in some ways — on the issue of using public money for private school vouchers, for example — a genuinely moderating influence on his party's excesses.

click to enlarge 1364404529-haslam_with_media_re_medicaid.jpg

As an example: The governor has proposed a modestly funded pilot program involving some 5,000 low-income students in demonstrably failing schools. While that might be characterized by public-school advocates as the proverbial slippery slope, what other Republicans on Nashville's Capitol Hill — notably Germantown state Senator Brian Kelsey and Lietenant Governor Ron Ramsey — would prescribe amounts to the chasm itself, an open-ended voucher program whose stipends at some point could be made available to students from any family, regardless of income.

We cite this difference of opinion as evidence that the governor has a mind of his own and can, when he chooses, resist pressure from his rank and file. Unfortunately, there are issues on which this admirable quality seems to become, in the Nixonian phrase, inoperative.

A case in point is on the matter of whether to accept upward of $2 billion in federal funding under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) to expand the state's Medicaid coverage (administered in Tennessee by TennCare). The state's 165 hospitals, many of which are financially strained to the brink of having to shut down, are desperate for such expansion funding, 100 percent of which would be provided by the federal government for three years, after which a recipient state would be liable for only 10 percent of the annual sum.

This is not a "liberal" cause. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, that bastion of economic conservatism, has urged the governor to accept the funding. GOP governors as far to the right as Jan Brewer in Arizona, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and John Kasich in Ohio have accepted the funding. Yet Haslam will not, continuing instead to dangle the prospect of something he calls "the Tennessee Plan," an amorphous private-sector alternative that even a loyal GOP legislator like state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Memphis acknowledges is a "phantom."

Though he surely knows better, having accepted his share of federal matching funds during two terms as mayor of Knoxville, Haslam declines to contradict those in the party — Kelsey, Ramsey, and Norris among them — who purport to believe that the feds will welsh on their 90 percent funding commitment to Medicaid once the initial three-year funding period is over. Never mind that the skeptics are unable to cite a single case of federal default on such a funding guarantee.

Beyond even the issue of health care itself, what is at stake in Tennessee's Medicaid debate is the same premise that is at risk in Washington every time (which is annually) the congressional Tea Partiers would have us default on our national debt obligations — namely, the full faith and credit of the United States of America.

To undermine that bedrock, either fiscally or rhetorically, is a disservice to the very nation that our nay-saying legislators go through the daily ritual of pledging allegiance to. The governor, who really does know better, could at least cease giving them aid and comfort.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

News Blog

Supreme Court Steps In on Fayette Church Matter

Intermission Impossible

Muhammad Ali Meets Stepin Fetchit at The Hattiloo Theatre

News Blog

Task Force Considers Medical Cannabis

News Blog

Trolleys Return to the Tracks for Testing

Music Blog

Jessi Zazu: In Memoriam

Beyond the Arc

Deflections: The Roster, TV Angst, and The Buy/Sell Clause

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

The Vietnam War

We Saw You

Cooper-Young Fest, Big Bugs, Art of Caring

Music Blog

Linda Heck: Bound to ExCITM tonight

Intermission Impossible

A Memory of Charles Billings

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Flyer Staff

Readers also liked…

  • Remembering Irvin Salky: One of a Kind

    • May 18, 2017
  • Common Sense Pot Policy

    Unlike Bill Clinton, I've inhaled. So have 49 percent of all Americans, according to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Marijuana (medical or otherwise) has been decriminalized or legalized in 23 states, and measures are on the ballot to legalize it in five more states this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California (where medical pot is already legal). A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized and regulated like alcohol ...
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Arkansas Goes to Pot

    • May 25, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation