A recent editorial in The Oklahoman supposedly criticizing the state’s decision to reject a $54.6 million federal grant to create a health exchange system here is so filled with rhetorical subterfuge and misplaced anger it’s hard to discern the message.
The editorial (“Oklahoma decision on insurance exchange funds is puzzling,” April 19, 2011) is yet another example of why the newspaper cannot be trusted to present straightforward arguments when it comes to local, right-wing politics.
Take the editorial’s headline, for example. The decision by Gov. Mary Fallin and other Republican leaders to reject the money is absolutely not “puzzling” at all. Fallin and the other leaders did it because of the local right-wing’s detest for all things Obama, including the president’s signature health-care legislation it labels deridingly as Obamacare.
The state, which is required under the Affordable Care Act to create a health exchange that would help some Oklahomans obtain less expensive insurance, rejected the money because of right-wing politics, not because it made pragmatic sense on any level. The state will still be required to create the exchange system by the federal government.
The editorial begins with a series of cutesy clichés, makes a point about ideology, and then makes a claim that the decision means that . . . “Ideology trumped common sense, as it so often does in the progressive world.” Note the reference to the “progressive world.” What’s the point here? Is it that since supposedly progressives embrace ideology over pragmatics it’s understandable right-wingers do it, too? That’s fine as far as clichéd arguments go, but in the context of an editorial about a terrible decision by Fallin and other leaders, it dilutes and tries to shift blame. The logic, advanced by the editorial, goes something like this: Fallin made a bad decision. It was based on ideology. But progressives make decisions based on ideology. That’s the real problem.
Then there’s this “logic” about Fallin’s decision:
. . . Liberals who opposed the Bush-era tax cuts nevertheless benefitted from them through lower withholding. On principle, they could have sent the money back to Washington, but that wouldn’t have made any difference. The tax cuts will continue indefinitely; liberals will continue to benefit.
But the small tax cuts for the middle-class, in most cases, didn’t even begin to make a dent in rising health-care and insurance costs.
Then we finally get to the crux of the editorial, which, remember, is ostensibly about the Republican decision here to reject the federal government money:
Rejection of the grant was a no-brainer – as in mindless pandering to an ideological base. That’s something President Obama is very good at.
So is the editorial about the decision to reject the money or is it really just another attack on progressives and Obama? Surely, whoever wrote the editorial knows rhetorical attacks against Obama and progressives in the state’s largest newspaper would just make it even more difficult for Fallin and crew to accept federal money tied to health-care reform. In other words, the newspaper, through this editorial and countless others, helps create the political atmosphere for such irresponsible, right-wing ideological decisions. The Oklahoman doesn’t have the smart take on the issue; it is the issue.
None of this would matter on some level if Oklahoma didn’t face a $500 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year or if it had an outstanding health-care system. But we do face major budget problems, and medical outcomes in Oklahoma have consistently been some of the worst in the nation. Thousands upon thousands of state residents have no health insurance. Oklahoma, just as it does year after year with weather emergency declarations, needs the help of the federal government. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Fallin stayed consistent to her campaign rhetoric when she eventually rejected the money. (She initially expressed her intent to accept the money and then she flipped.) She actively campaigned against the right-wing Obama caricature. She supports the state’s lawsuit against the ACA. She now says state and private money will fund the exchange if the law isn’t repealed, but it’s difficult to believe Fallin or anyone else really believes the state can maverick its way to a system that substantially improves health care here.
Unfortunately, Fallin’s decision also suggests she’s moving away from what appeared to be more centrist political views she expressed indirectly and directly after she was elected. The Oklahoman, with its obvious methodical manipulation of new apologists, will make sure Fallin never strays too far from the anti-Obama message no matter what the cost to Oklahomans suffering from health problems for which they can’t afford treatment.