Two Bankruptcies for the Price of One

Rick Berman
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Posted: Apr 23, 2010 11:35 AM
Two Bankruptcies for the Price of One

A majority of supposedly fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats have blindsided constituents in cash-strapped states (and let’s face it, at this point, which states aren’t cash-strapped?) with a budgetary double whammy.

A cadre of Democrats dedicated to helping the federal government achieve a balanced budget, the Blue Dogs total 54 members. Thirty of these "fiscal conservatives" just voted to pass the new multi trillion dollar health care law.

How much is a trillion dollars? That’s a one with 12 zeros. The now well known accounting gimmicks woven throughout this legislation were put in place to mask the real costs. So count on this law adding much more than its advertised price tag to the already mind numbing 12 trillion dollar national debt.

That’s whammy number one.

We also need to consider the states, and herein lays the Blue Dog double whammy. Health care reform won’t just hasten the bankrupting of the federal government: It also adds billions of dollars in financial obligations to states that are teetering on the edge of insolvency.

Consider California. Already some $20 billion in the red, the nation’s largest state will have to contend with a huge addition to their Medicaid rolls mandated by health care reform – anyone making 133% of the poverty line will be eligible to apply. In addition, health care reform requires that the states increase their reimbursement rate for doctors as well as outpatient Medicaid providers. According to the New York Times, these numbers could total as much as $2.5 billion in new expenditures for the state.

Not only did all six members of the Blue Dog caucus from California vote to add to the federal budget’s woes, they also voted to hasten the bankrupting of their home state. Had these 6 dogs voted as they had campaigned for office, this fiscal train wreck that passed with a margin of 3 votes to spare would have gone down.

That’s two budgets blown up in a single vote. Not bad for a day’s work.

The Californians aren’t alone. Texas’s lone Blue Dog Democrat, Henry Cuellar, voted for health care reform. The leftwing Center for Public Policy Priorities said that this legislation, were it to go into effect today, would cost Texas an additional $370 million a year. That’s a lot of fajitas for a state facing a budget gap next year.

Arizona is also feeling the heat. The sole Blue Dog from the Grand Canyon State, Gabrielle Giffords, barked in favor of the new health law. Faced with a $2.6 billion budget deficit in 2011, Arizona legislators made the tough choice to end a program that extended Medicaid to childless adults. That austerity is all for naught, however; Medicaid’s expansion mandates that Arizona reverse that decision.

Fortunately, this additional responsibility under Medicaid – and the havoc it will wreak on state budgets across the country – doesn’t begin until 2014. This means there is still time to take action and repeal the legislation before the worst comes to pass.

Jesse Unruh, a powerful California politician in the 1960s and ‘70s, once remarked that “if you can’t drink a lobbyist’s whiskey, take his money, sleep with his women and still vote against him in the morning, you don’t belong in politics.”

The Blue Dogs have taken Unruh’s maxim to heart. Elected by voters more conservative than the average Democrat to defend fiscal sanity, they have bitten the hand that feeds them.

Voters will forgive politicians for many things: infidelity, Botox addictions, even bad toupees. But one thing voters cannot abide is a politician who wins their vote on promises of fiscal responsibility and then fails to deliver when it really counts.

If voting taxpayers are paying attention, these dogs will be in a real dog house come November.