Is Expanding The Social Safety Net Compatible With Fiscal Restraint?

Yesterday’s New York Times addresses this issue with an article “Ohio Governor Defies G.O.P. With Defense of Social Safety Net”.  It describes how Republican Governor John Kasich has maneuvered to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio to 275,000 low income Ohioans under the new healthcare law, over the objections of his own Republican dominated state legislature.
Mr. Kasich is a former congressional deficit hawk and there is little doubt about his fiscal conservatism.  He recently balanced his state budget by cutting revenues to local government by $720 million.  But he has also expanded state aid for the mentally ill and supported efforts to raise local taxes for improving education.  He says “for those who live in the shadows of life, for those who are the least among us, I will not accept the fact that the most vulnerable in our state should be ignored.”
Especially after the disastrous debt ceiling debate, with Tea Party Republicans willing to default on our national debt in order to defund Obama Care, it is critical for fiscal conservatives to publicly demonstrate that they are not opposed to helping the poor in a reasonable manner, as long as it is cost effective.
To be in favor of controlling entitlement spending is not the same thing as wanting to abolish entitlement programs.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  We must control their costs so that the government will have the means to continue to support them.  It is just plain ordinary common sense.  If our national debt continues to grow unchecked, we risk not only entitlement programs but our entire way of life.
Take Medicaid as a concrete example.  Right now the federal government pays a percentage of the costs incurred by state governments in running the program.  The more a state spends for Medicaid, the greater the reimbursement from the federal government. This increases spending for both the states and the federal government.  A more cost effective approach is to give each state a block grant from the federal government and enough leeway to operate its own program as efficiently as it can.  Exactly this approach is being used in Rhode Island and is working very well at a much lower overall cost.
Being a fiscal conservative is not the same thing as being mean spirited!  The future of our country depends on getting this crucial message out far and wide!

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