Ignoring Real Economic Problems, Sens. Coburn And Hatch Repackage Reagan's "Welfare Queen" Myth

November 09, 2011 4:39 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (OK) and Orrin Hatch (UT) offer what they bill as the "Top Ten Reasons Why Medicaid Needs Reform." Instead, it's a reminder of the fecklessness and cruelty of the modern Republican Party. Hatch and Coburn start things off with the kind of baseless demagoguery that has long been a core GOP principle:

Sounds outrageous — until you realize that, of course, the regulations don't say anything about Rolls Royces. They simply exclude "one automobile" from calculations of a Medicaid applicant's financial resources. So how many Medicaid recipients are driving around in Rolls Royces? Somewhere in the neighborhood of "zero," probably. Few enough, anyway, that Hatch and Coburn failed to include any evidence, statistical or anecdotal, of Medicaid recipients enjoying their government-subsidized health care from the driver's seat of luxury car.

It's a totally nonexistent problem — and yet it's the very first reason Hatch and Coburn give for "reforming" Medicaid. That's typical of Coburn, who prefers to address non-existent problems like wasteful government funding of programs that are not, in fact, government-funded rather than dealing with real problems like unemployment. While the nation faces an ongoing jobs crisis, an ever-widening gap between the richest few and the other 99 percent, and massive deficits caused by his party's reckless tax giveaways to the rich and unnecessary wars, Coburn risks dislocating his shoulder patting himself on the back for tirelessly looking for nickels in the sofa.

Which isn't to say that the nonsensical solutions and nonexistent problems Coburn talks about are pointless: Like Ronald Reagan's apocryphal stories of "welfare queens" living it up on the public's dime, the Rolls Royce talking point is intended to pit the middle class and poor against each other and destroy the social safety net by convincing people that its beneficiaries are gaming the system. But that may be a harder sell now, after decades of trickle-down economics have made clear that, in fact, the system is rigged in favor of wealthy elites, thanks to the efforts of politicians like Orrin Hatch and Tom Coburn.

The eighth entry in the Hatch/Coburn top ten list is revealing as well: "You can own a half a million dollar luxury home and still qualify for Medicaid." And that's the Republican economic philosophy in a nutshell: Want health care? Sell your house. Not that they're universally stingy: If you happen to be an oil company with billions of dollars in profits, Republicans are happy to give you massive tax breaks. They just can't stand the thought of someone who has a house getting a little help paying for doctor visits.