If the Wizard of Westerville is really the messiah of reform he claims to be, you would have thought by now, after a lifetime in and around government, he would have figured out what is really unbalancing America’s budget.
And contrary to accepted political folklore by the GOP and its candidates for office like Gov. John Kasich, it’s not spending on social safety net benefit programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These programs, beloved by Americans for good reason, are also the three reliable targets Republicans including Gov. Kasich and his contemporary protégée in Washington, Rep. Paul Ryan, repeatedly shoot at. Their aim shows how far off the mark they are in understanding the true dynamics behind government deficits.
Gov. Kasich shows how clueless he is about what’s been driving deficits outside of unnecessary and unpaid for wars and across the board tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest at the expense of poor and middle class workers and their families.
Once upon a time a couple decades ago, Rep. Kasich’s political friend and power promoter of the day, Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich, took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 by brandishing the so-called Contract with America [CWA], a political manifesto that served as the GOP’s political cookbook for limiting government in many ways. The CWA detailed the actions the Republicans promised to take if they became the majority party in the House in Washington in 1994.
CWA included eight reforms the Republicans promised to enact, and ten bills they promised to bring to floor debate and votes. Much of CWA’s policy ideas originated at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, that included ideas from the Reagan Administration. Given President Reagan’s declaration that government isn’t the solution but the problem,career GOP army officials like John Kasich have been silent on solving the crisis of health care in America.
But the nation’s deficit spending, as we know, is determined by many factors. From unnecessary wars [George W. Bush’s two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq] and unproductive tax cut giveaways [$2.3 trillion under Bush the younger passed with help from a friendly GOP controlled Congress] that cost trillions that were never budgeted but paid for by borrowing, America’s wealthiest has reaped much from stard GOP operating principles Congressman Kasich accepted without questions.
Moreover, while unbudgeted wars and tax cuts have taken us from happy days of growing surpluses under President Clinton, everything changed after deficits under Bush II skyrocketed more than $7 trillion before the economy collapsed on his watch, leaving president-elect Barack Obama with a world shattered by war and a financial crisis.
But it’s no secret that the real culprit for America’s doldrums, then and now, is the lopsided spending America tolerates with respect to providing for health care for its citizens. At about 17 percent of GDP not long ago, America’s spending on health care is now more than double what every other advanced industrialized country spends. American exceptionalism on health care is indeed exceptional, since our system is based on and mostly controlled by a private for-profit health insurance and delivery system, whose costs are outrageous by comparison to other country costs but accepted as though there is no solutions to rein it in.
There were many issues addressed in the CWA that Rep. Kasich and every other Republican at the time marched in lockstep to get behind. But the topics covered in CWA offered not one word about health care. But it’s clear that America’s health system, designed to maximize shareholder profits for private for-profit healthcare providers at the expense of customers, is the unequaled driver of budget deficits. So while Rep. Kasich harped on overpriced procurement for the military back in his early years in Washington [$300 hammers and $600 toilet seats] as a rising disciple of the Great Communicator, he’s quiet as a mouse now on the exorbitant costs that are common core to the high-priced system until, that is, the arrival of the Affordable Care Act in 2009 started reversing what had been double digit pricing leaps.
So-called budget battlers like John Kasich were rebels without a real cause. After years of crusading for a balanced budget, Republicans found it difficult to redefine their mission as deficits declined under a Clinton-Gore White House. The return of government as a good steward of taxpayer dollars undercut Rep. Kasich’s main ideological tenant: government is always too big and always spends too much, so it must be reined in.
As part of his Republican preparedness campaign to show how concerned he is with too much government spending, in June of 2010 John kasich signed Grover Norquist’s Tax Pledge. The governor’s press secretary told this reporter, when I asked whether Kasich would keep faith with Norquist’s controversial pledge, that the Administration would honor it because there was “no reason to step back from it.” What Kasich honored was to not increase income taxes. What he didn’t honor was to not raise other taxes to pay for his reduction in the personal income tax, which any student of economics knows always benefits the wealthiest over how middle class wage earners fare.
Kasich has brandished headlines that call him a moderate because he bucked his own party on Medicaid spending. While he has shown how not a moderate he is on many other health issues, from protecting health rights for women to helping people down on there luck in Kasich’s economy feed themselves, his support of expanding Medicaid would not have happened had $2.5 billion not been at stake by denying it. Many other GOP governors have readily turned down expanding Medicaid to show their anti-Obamaism bona fides. Gov. Kasich knows a pot of gold when he sees one, and Medicaid manna from Washington is no different. John Kasich has complained about how fundamentally flawed the ACA is, but after 40 years in government the messiah of reform has never offered a plan to tackle the greatest threat to America. Even Mitt Romney, the losing GOP presidential candidate in 2012 that Kasich proclaimed “get’s it,” signed a bill that enabled Romneycare—the model for the ACA [aka Obamacare]—to flourish in Massachusetts. Kasich’s all for more tax cuts, but it’s common knowledge that doing so doesn’t create jobs as history has proven again and again. But on the biggest budget buster, affordable health care, he’s AWOL.
So if Gov. Kasich really wants to fire up the history machine again by taking a whack at who and what is driving the high cost of living in America, he ought to take on for-profit health care providers. Hospitals and virtually all other contributors to the system have been called out by Steve Brill, who has identified outrageous pricing in the nation’s health care delivery system. But Ohio’s CEO-style governor will never do this, because to do so would mean to take on the very corporations, and the golden-parachuted CEOs who run them, forwhat they are, for profit gougers who run the system for their benefit, not for the benefit of people who fall ill or want to prevent themselves from becoming sick. But if you’re Gov . Kasich, you still believe now what you believed then, that health care is a privilege and not a right. It’s little wonder that you would think skyrocketing costs, from a tiny pill to a major operation, is the free market working as it should.
So much for helping real people in real shadows.
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