Yesterday, Tea Party darling and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul told Kentucky voters that Medicaid is “intergenerational welfare.” In an interview with local chamber of commerce leaders, Paul implied the program reaches out far beyond the truly needy and has loose eligibility standards. Medicaid assists nearly 20% of Kentuckians.
I would be interested to see exactly how a man who nets over $200,000 in income and has a robust stock portfolio goes about identifying the “truly needy.” Are pregnant women without health insurance needy? How about dependent children under 19 or the disabled? For example, a single mother in Kentucky with one child cannot earn more than $851 a month to qualify. In other words, if she’s working part time for minimum wage, she can’t work for more than 29 hours for fear of losing her health benefits. When many employers don’t offer health benefits for part time work or keep their employees at part time levels in order to avoid providing health insurance options, staying on Medicaid becomes the only option. Unless one is willing to gamble on one’s health.
Rand Paul’s statement on the matter echoes the same Reaganite talking points Republicans use to scare the public into believing the poor, disabled and anyone else barely scraping by on the lower rungs of the economic ladder are lazy leaches. The only difference between Ronnie and Rand is the tri-corner hat on Rand’s head. Thanks to decades of hateful rhetoric towards lower economic classes, millions of voters who have more in common with someone struggling to stay afloat in the roughest economic waters since the 30’s will send a guy like Paul to DC. Thanks to decades of corporate lobbying and big campaign spending, the folks in DC need only keep their sponsors happy, rather than the public they supposedly serve.
We can gut services to the poor and chant “personal responsibility” until John Galt’s ghost rides down from the clouds on an Eagle and economic misery and inequality will continue to increase throughout America. Sadly, we still haven’t realized our neighbor next door isn’t sucking money out of our pockets, but rather large corporate sponsors and wealthy individuals who have a vested financial interest in deregulation and tax cuts. So long as we keep our faith in Horatio Alger and welfare myths, more of us will continue to fight each other over who has less.