The Obama era has seen an endless and depressing onslaught of failing left-wing policy ideas, beginning with the passage of the stimulus in early 2009 and continuing today with the implementation of Obamacare. But conservatives have no reason to despair when there is so much happening at the state level to look to for inspiration.
While Washington dithers, Republican governors are defying the conventional wisdom and making a difference in their respective states. They offer examples of successful conservative policies, and they form a bench that is much deeper than anything the Democrats have to offer in the way of future party leaders.
One good example is Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Well known around the country after his battle with Wisconsin unions and subsequent recall attempt — in which he proved more popular than when he was first elected — Walker’s Madison continues to provide a contrast with President Obama’s Washington. And like some other governors, he shows a willingness to call out national leaders for their failure to solve problems similar to those he has faced. He defied the order to close federally-funded parks during the government shutdown. And the weak Wisconsin economy he inherited has since turned around during his tenure.
Most pertinent to current national news, Walker, a strong critic of Obamacare, has worked to come up with his own unique way to deal with the law’s Medicaid expansion – as have a few other GOP governors around the country.
Under his plan, Wisconsin residents currently on Medicaid who are above the poverty line would be shifted instead to the Obamacare exchanges, control of which Walker has given entirely over to the federal government. Essentially, its problems are theirs, not his. At the same time, all Wisconsinites living in poverty will become eligible for Medicaid, rather than being kept off the program due to enrollment caps.
On net, this will decrease the number of state Medicaid recipients by about 5,400. Forbes’ Avik Roy considers this a solid conservative option because everyone above the poverty line will have access to subsidized private-sector coverage on the exchanges. Additionally,
“[T]he exchanges…are subsidized on a sliding scale: the more money you make, the less subsidy you get. If you’re on Medicaid, and you seek entry-level work, you face the prospects of losing your health coverage. The exchanges, with their gradual tapering-off of subsidies, limit this disincentive.”
The downside for Wisconsinites above the poverty line is that some will face higher out-of-pocket expenses. But, as Walker’s former health secretary Dennis Smith said, “The important thing is that everyone now has access to health insurance – whether they choose it or not is up to them.”
This sort of outside-the-box thinking goes beyond Medicaid. Walker just this week signed a bill to allow firms to raise money through crowd-funding. Rather than going to banks for a traditional loan, firms can raise small donations from many people. Think of it as the Wikipedia of funding: small contributions aggregated into a sizable whole. This relatively new method for funding business is gaining popularity and may become an important financial option for futurr projects.
Supporters say it “will make investing in the state a “more democratic” endeavor and let entrepreneurs leverage public goodwill for their plans in a way that wouldn’t be possible through traditional financing…”
Finally, in contrast to Washington’s kicking the entitlement can down the road, Walker has begun to implement strategies to cut down on public assistance fraud. As the MacIver Institute, a Wisconsin-based free-market think tank, reports,
Strategies…include developing an Error Prone Profile module that can identify cases that need further verification at the time of application, requiring BadgerCare and FoodShare applicants to provide tax returns if they are self-employed, and increasing data exchanges between multiple departments for more efficient data processing, among others.
Governor Walker has been mentioned as a possible dark horse 2016 presidential candidate. He is popular with Republicans and especially conservatives, but his tough stance on public sector union pensions and health care plans could make him a target of vigorous opposition from unions should he run.
Whether he does run and whether he can make it in the national spotlight remains to be seen. Either way, the reforms he has been able to implement in a purple state should be seized upon by anyone looking for conservatism in action.