If the past is any indication of the future, when it comes to Medicaid, Governor Kasich may still come out the victor. Unfortunately, that would mean a loss for Ohioans.
True, the new Ohio budget law didn’t grant Kasich’s wish to expand Medicaid. But in the lyrics of the great 20th century philosopher Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find you get what you need.” That philosophy has worked fairly well for the progressive movement, and the Democratic Party, for over 100 years. Of course, it helps when the other side, the Republicans, have members who are willing to go along.
A likely source of an eventual Kasich victory on Medicaid might be attributed to the fact that Medicaid is part of a government-industrial complex. Consider the germ of the term. In his farewell address on January 17, 1961, President Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.” In Eisenhower’s view, government agencies became illicit partners with a conglomerate of industries, ostensibly that together they might serve some genuine purpose. Too often, however, each just looks out for its own self-interests. Eisenhower called on the “councils of government” to strike a “balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable.”
An industrial complex has two main features. First, an enterprise must have a large agency or a large number of smaller agencies assigned to manage it. The second feature is that looters must be able to hide and effectively use emotional, even religious-like, arguments to support their looting.
The Department of Defense was probably the only agency that could legitimately be called an industrial complex in 1961. With the growth of government, however, industrial complexes have mushroomed; of particular note are the three E’s of energy, environment, and education. All three of these departments were started after Eisenhower’s speech by both Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
What’s all this got to do with Ohio and Kasich? Through the gradual collapse of federalism, in which power is divided between the national and state governments, states and local governments have seen their powers dwindle because of the rise of these industrial complexes. In fact, one reason why Kasich wants to expand Medicaid is to tap into promised federal health care-industrial complex money. Kasich is either naïve or self-serving, because while industrial complexes themselves enjoy tremendous growth, they destroy, corrupt, or greatly weaken the legitimate purposes of their respective missions.
If there is anything to be said in defense of Kasich’s attempt to sell Ohio’s soul to gain federal money, it’s this:
Republicans have a difficult time going against industrial complexes, because industrial complexes act pretty much like modern medieval churches. Since medieval churches were run by holy men fighting for holy causes, how could anyone object to them? But because (at times) medieval churches controlled all aspects of life through fear and intimidation by wielding their political power, if people did object to some teaching or practice, they could wind up dead or missing a limb or two. For many, it was just easier to cooperate. It’s no accident, then, that in a June 18, 2013 news conference, Kasich invoked God’s unhappiness with those that would oppose his Medicaid plan and even warned of their ability to get past St. Peter. Such insinuations invite an old question that Ohioans would do well to consider:
What did medieval peasants think, as they worked their master’s soil
About those who ruled from the castle on the hill and for whom they daily toil
And what of those in holy places across the rolling hill and dale
That placed the fear of God in them so the serfs will never dare prevail?
Modern medieval churches, complete with priests and scripture, position themselves to be above reproach as they do their holy work–whether it’s for God and country (DoD, DHS, NSA…), Mother Earth (DoE and EPA), for the children (Dept of Ed), or for the poor (various). Today, as before, you must give your tithe (tax) and dare not question authority. If you do, you won’t lose your life or a limb, because tax collection is much more civilized today than the old days. But if you try to take on modern medieval churches, you may find yourself as Hester Prynne did, branded with an applicable scarlet letter–it’s tough getting a job today when you have to walk into an interview with a big “C” hanging around your neck. So like those before us, many find it just easier to sympathize with Rodney King, another great 20th century philosopher, when he asks, “Can’t we all just get along?”
Unfortunately, however inviting it may be, the path of least resistance is the path to serfdom. And conservatives are not above reproach. Interestingly, the DoD is one of the few conservative industrial complexes, primarily because its basic mission is specifically mentioned in the constitution and thus is a legitimate function of government. But although a defense department may strengthen the country, a defense-industrial complex weakens it. Therefore, the Right’s blind defense of the DoD is no better than the Left’s blind defense of the other governmental departments.
Like the DoD, Medicaid expansion is hard for some conservatives to disagree with. But the difficulty isn’t due to a sound governmental principle that Medicaid expansion inherently contains; it’s due to the emotional appeal of health care and the promise of federal money. The Constitution is blind to both, preferring reason over pathos, and liberty as its incentive.
Tony Corvo is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with a Ph.D. in physics. He is active in local Beavercreek, Ohio politics and is the author of All Politics is Loco: Musings from the Conservative Next Door. He and his wife have two grown daughters. He writes extensively on local issues. Many of his recent articles can be found at taxbusters.wordpress.com/author/phdmc2.
Michael Hamilton contributed to this article.
Related on OCR: “Is Medicaid Expansion a Legal Trap for Ohioans?”