Bobby Jindal, ‘Obamacare,’ and the red state vow of poverty

By on July 1, 2012

On Meet the Press Sunday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took his turn as a GOP surrogate and potential Mitt Romney VP, and did, I think, an effective job of articulating the right’s continued opposition to “Obamacare.” But Jindal’s arguments, while well articulated, were so fundamentally radical, they bear examining, writes my blogging colleague Joy Reid of the Reid Report.

Jindal is one of the Republican governors, including Florida’s Rick Scott, and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker (whose AG begs to differ) who have vowed to not implement the Affordable Care Act in their states, even after the Supreme Court has declared it constitutional.

Calling it a “new entitlement,” and saying “we can’t afford the entitlements we have to day, he [Obama] has created a new one,” and that adding millions more people to the Medicaid rolls would simply mean “more people in the cart than are pulling the cart,” Jindal told MTP host David Gregory, who asked him, “are you really going to not cover people who need insurance in your state?” — that he and other governors have “two fundamental choices ahead of them” when it comes to covering poor people in their states who lack health insurance: “are we gonna set up these exchanges, and are we gonna expand Medicare. And no, in Louisiana we’re not doing either one of those.”

That’s a breathtakingly radical statement by Jindal, whose state ranks near the bottom when it comes to child poverty, along with other red state basket cases like Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama, and near the top of the list of states with the highest percentage of its population who lack health insurance. Jindal’s fellow panelist, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, pointed that out, to which Jindal said essentially nothing. Dean comes from a state that has had universal healthcare for 20 years, as he also reminded viewers, and while Dean himself opposed the individual mandate, he effectively pointed out that states with large numbers of poor people — mainly red, southern states — are refusing federal help for their own citizens, even though that help is 100 percent paid for by the feds for the first ten years. (On Fox on Sunday, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was more blunt: the 30 million Americans who lack health insurance are “not the issue.”)

Jindal’s response was to state that he and Dean — and conservatives and liberals — simply have a fundamental difference of opinion about whether governors should act to reverse those grim statistics among their own populations. Jindal’s argument is that states essentially have a right to hold their populations hostage to poverty, simply because they oppose a federal law, and that he and other governors would prefer to wait for a federal government they like better than the current one, rather than implement the law of the land within their borders. There was more to Jindal’s argument — that the real solution to poverty was to create jobs, not expand government dependency — but he essentially is making the argument that in the meantime, while states like his continue to be teeming with poor people; many more poor people than blue states — he is content to let those people suffer, because ideologically, he opposes the proposed federal solution to their plight.

Ironically, the result of that, when it comes to the healthcare exchanges, is that by doing nothing, conservative governors like Jindal are CEDING the implementation of “Obamacare” to the Obama administration — the same federal government they fear and loathe. The ACA law is written to mandate federal operation of the healthcare exchanges if states don’t start doing it themselves (they are required to demonstrate to HHS that they have a plan next January, and have the exchanges up and running by January 1, 2014.) So Jindal and Walker and others are opting for MORE federal control, and a literal federal takeover of their healthcare systems, because they oppose … a federal takeover of healthcare. If that makes sense to you, you must by Bobby Jindal.

Please visit The Reid Report.

Jindal’s second argument on Sunday, in response to the fact that his candidate for president, Mitt Romney, used to believe that the individual mandate was the right way to penalize free ridership in healthcare usage (a belief that unfortunately for Romney, was captured on tape) was that states are different from one another, and their uniqueness and specialness means their should be 50 different solutions to uninsuredness and poverty (it just happens that the big, blue northeastern states, including Mitt Romney’s former state, Massachusetts, have historically done a better job, just by the numbers.) Jindal actually said that Louisiana has Mardis Gras, which works for them but might not work for Vermont. (That caused Gregory to ask, “are you really comparing Mardis Gras to the lack of health insurance…?”) And the answer, it appears, is yes.

Dean’s response to Jindal’s argument was pretty devastating. He picked on Texas, not Louisiana this time, pointing out that the large number of poor kids — something like one in four — who lack access to healthcare aren’t just Texas kids, they’re American kids.

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