Governor Brewer was under no compulsion to go along with the Obama administration on this matter. The Supreme Court already has ruled that the states may opt out of the Medicaid expansion, and ten other governors, apparently made of sterner stuff, have done just that — from familiar conservatives such as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Texas’s Rick Perry to Maine’s Tea Party upstart Paul LePage. Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, is said to be wavering.
The question is whether our governors have the foresight and the patience to act in the long-term interests of their states — and their country — or whether they can simply be bought off with a few truckloads of money from Washington. We now know Jan Brewer’s price; as it turns out, it’s not even that high. Her explanation for her position has been, in short, that the people want it. But she is a governor, not a tribune of the plebs, and when the people demand actions that are destructive or irresponsible, it is the job of leaders to dissuade them and to advocate a wiser course of action.
One year ago, Governor Brewer called a special session of the Arizona legislature to address Medicaid expenses, offering up a plan to reduce benefits and remove thousands of Arizonans from the eligibility rolls. At the time, her chief ally in the legislature explained the situation thus: “We’re broke.” As a country, we are no less broke today than we were a year ago — in fact, we are even more broke, as the result of another trillion-dollar deficit. Governor Brewer’s surrender on Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is helping to make the country broker still.