AS A POLITICS JUNKIE, I confess to being a bit jealous of the Chris Christie/George Washington Bridge story, in which one of the New Jersey governor's staffers brazenly emailed "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
It's got all the makings of a delicious political soap opera: Nasty payback, vindictive staffers, smoking gun emails, vaguely Mafia-like New York/New Jersey accents, and of course the most important ingredient, a really great villain.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is nowhere near the colorful, charismatic bully that Christie is. But in last week's State of the State speech kicking off this year's General Assembly session in Atlanta, Deal sounded a note every bit as vindictive, every bit as combative, with many, many more times the impact of the bridge hubbub.
In this election year, Deal called again for nullification of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), defending his decision to refuse to expand Medicaid as per the ACA's original mandate (made optional by a subsequent court ruling.)
Deal's decision not to expand Medicaid means 650,000 Georgians will remain without medical insurance. That's about one out of every 15 of us—not a small or negligible number.
The governor bases his refusal to expand Medicaid on economic reasons: Individual states will have to begin self-funding a percentage of the expansion beginning in 2017.
Normally, I'm also against unfunded mandates from the federal government. But in this case, ACA will end up saving Georgia taxpayers in the long run by helping to ensure a more healthy population, one that isn't completely dependent on already over-stressed ER care.
Some studies show that about 70,000 additional jobs would be created over 10 years and about $30 billion would enter the Georgia economy under expanded Medicaid.
What I find unforgivable about Deal's position is its central hypocrisy: He and other Obamacare opponents insist ACA is a "handout" to people who refuse to work for a living, people who are lazy and dependent on the federal government.
But of course the entire point of the Affordable Care Act's reform—and particularly the call to expand Medicaid—is to expand health insurance to the working poor, families with a breadwinner or two who still cannot earn enough in this economy to purchase regular insurance.
Despite the irresistably juicy aspects of Christie's bridge shenanigans, they don't amount to much. Whoever ordered the shutdown of several lanes of that bridge basically just inconvenienced some affluent Manhattanites during their commutes to and from comfortable suburban homes in a bedroom community.
But in Georgia, Nathan Deal's stubborn ideological intransigence is seriously impacting lives—and likely will cost lives.
I wish the worst that would happen here is trouble getting over the Talmadge Bridge.
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