Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Growing up I heard the expression that there is no point to “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”  We’ve probably all heard it.  And that expression certainly applies to a growing problem in Tennessee related to ObamaCare.  Read more….

The problem is highlighted by this statement recently made by an executive representing hospitals in Tennessee.  According to a local newspaper, he “warned that some hospitals face closure without the Medicaid expansion and that rural hospitals will be hardest hit.”

To be honest, I don’t know if that statement is true, but I have no reason to doubt this person whom I know and respect.  And, in any event, based on my knowledge of the state budget and health care, having served 10 years on the Senate’s Health and General Welfare Committee that reviewed TennCare’s budget, it is believable.

But here’s the rub.  The federal government has no money to pay for the expansion!  We forget that the federal government is borrowing over 40 cents of every dollar it spends.  Our national debt is beyond comprehension and perhaps even beyond repayment, at least in my lifetime.

So, the state can rob Peter (the federal government) to pay Paul (the hospitals through Medicaid expansion), but how much good, long-term, does that do?

I would submit that it does no good other than to delay the inevitable, namely, that somebody is going to go broke the way things are going.  The hospitals can go broke or the federal government can go broke trying to keep the hospitals from going broke.  Admittedly, the hospitals might go broke before the federal government does, but with Congress just raising the debt ceiling, caving to the President at every opportunity, and the President seemingly not concerned enough to actually do something differently, the federal government may not be too far behind the hospitals anyway.

Some will think this is crazy, but maybe the state should do like Congressman Daniel Webster who I commented on a couple of weeks ago.  Congressman Webster said that the only thing he could actually control in terms of the federal deficit was the amount that the government was going to borrow to provide his office administration budget.  So, he decided only to spend that percentage of his office budget that did not have to be borrowed.

Maybe the state should decide that the only thing it can control relative to the national debt and annual budget deficits is the part of the federal money that doesn’t have to be borrowed to pay for expanding the Medicaid rolls.  And, as a result, not add to the debt by choosing to expand Medicaid.

Some might say that’s crazy.  Their argument will be that it doesn’t matter  because every other state is going to do it anyway.  Probably so.  But I remember another statement growing up that may apply here as well, “Son, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you should do it, too.”