Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

May 10, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS: Elections have consequences

FRANKFORT — I’m subject to temporary bouts of disillusionment with politics and it’s dangerous to attempt columns in such a mood.

So indulge me and allow me to make some random observations without final political judgments.

Gov. Steve Beshear made a pretty persuasive case to expand Medicaid under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. But the case relies on the accuracy of the data he presented. Only with time and experience can we know if he is right.

Still it was encouraging to hear the usually cautious governor forcefully say his decision “is the right thing to do” and tell sore loser critics of health care reform to “get over it.”

But it was also encouraging to hear Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, an outspoken critic of Medicaid expansion, say she hopes it works and concede the final verdict depends on the veracity of Beshear’s economic data. She sounded like someone who disagrees with the means but shares the goal of helping the less fortunate.

I’ve always tried to read both conservative and liberal economists, people like the now deceased Milton Friedman and Paul Krugman, hoping to learn from both. (Each won a Nobel Prize.) I was a fan of Friedman’s and oddly enough I’ve become one of Krugman’s. (Their opinions couldn’t be more different.)

Krugman writes a column for the New York Times in which for years he has argued against conventional wisdom that our government debt is an imminent danger and must be drastically reduced in a depressed economy. His position sounded counter-intuitive when I began reading him.

But five years later the evidence seems to support Krugman, not his critics. Interest rates and inflation haven’t exploded and unemployment remains the economy’s biggest drag. The deficit is actually declining though few seem to notice. Even Paul Ryan and John Boehner have recently said the U.S. faces “no immediate debt crisis.” European economies which adopted austerity — the prescription of Krugman’s critics — have not performed as well as the U.S. economy which tried stimulus.

No one except airline customers seemed to notice the effects of federal sequester cuts. But Kentucky school boards, superintendents and teachers are about to. Districts are handing out pinks slips to teachers and cutting budgets already hamstrung by flat-lined state funding for five years.

I’ve lived long enough to look back and reflect on events and debates of my youth which I now believe contributed to our current toxic political climate. Three stand out: Vietnam, Watergate and Roe vs. Wade.

But there’s a lesser discussed event which still haunts us – the confirmation hearings for Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Bork was undeniably qualified but he was defiantly unapologetic for his views which were far more conservative than the mainstream of his day. He was infamously “Borked.” Leading the charge was a U.S. Senator from Delaware named Joe Biden.

Today, Biden is part of an administration thwarted at every turn by a Republican House and Republican Senate minority led by Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell. The latest example of Republican “obstructionist” tactics is their effort to hold up Obama’s nominations of Gina McCarthy for the EPA and Thomas Perez at the Labor Department.

It’s time both sides declare an armistice. Voters should understand if they elect a conservative president he or she is likely to nominate like-minded Supreme Court justices and cabinet officials. Liberal presidents are just as likely to nominate liberal candidates. If they’re qualified, they should be confirmed. Elections have consequences.

And minority parties — whether Biden’s in the 1980s or McConnell’s today — should realize precedent will likely be repeated when their party is in power.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

 

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