Liberal Columbus Dispatch Columnist Defends Kasich, Maligns Conservatives

Joe Hallett, a liberal news and opinion columnist for The Columbus Dispatch, sneered at the Ohio Liberty Coalition (OLC) and cheered for Governor John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion proposal in a February 24 editorial titled “Republicans need to stand up to band of rigid intimidators.”

Hallett began his column with two questions, asking, “Where are the voices of reason? When will responsible Republicans come forward and confront the political intimidators?”

By “political intimidators,” Hallett meant OLC, an umbrella organization of conservative groups from across Ohio. Exercised about OLC’s warning that Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly who back Medicaid expansion could face primary challenges, Hallett twice referred to the state’s largest conservative coalition as “fringe.”

Ohio voted in November 2011 to adopt the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment by a 66-34 landslide, winning the approval of a majority of voters in every county. The amendment was championed by OLC and expressly written to limit the damage of President Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), of which Medicaid expansion is a central part.

Enthusiasm for bigger government and marginalization of its opponents are regular themes of Hallett’s work. In a February 17 Dispatch editorial, Hallett wrote, “the justifiable expansion of Medicaid in Kasich’s budget is in jeopardy, because GOP lawmakers fear it will invite primary-election challenges from tea partiers who seem bent on society’s regression.”

Hallett also warned on February 17 that “Legislative ideologues oppose Kasich’’s humane decision to take advantage of a federally funded expansion of Medicaid,” which will cost taxpayers unknown billions of dollars.

Studies have shown that in many cases Medicaid patients receive worse care than those with no insurance at all, and the entitlement program is riddled with waste and fraud. Nonetheless, progressive politicians, activists, and commentators support the PPACA Medicaid expansion because the federal government – already more than $16.5 trillion in debt – has promised to pay for 100 percent of states’ expansion costs for three years before trimming federal funding to 90 percent.

And Joe Hallett asks, “Where are the voices of reason?”

In addition to loudly opposing Medicaid expansion, OLC has expressed opposition to Kasich’s plan to pay for a sales tax reduction by taxing previously exempt services, and to Kasich’s plan to partially cover an income tax cut by hiking severance taxes on oil and gas drillers.

“Most disturbing about the Liberty Council’’s threat is its knee-jerk opposition to a unique and money-saving opportunity to extend health care to 275,000 poor Ohioans, mostly children,” Hallett wrote on February 24.

Hallett continued, “Almost every thoughtful group that has studied the proposed Medicaid expansion has endorsed it, from conservative business groups, to Ohio Right to Life, to advocates for the mentally ill, to the editorial pages of Ohio’’s biggest newspapers.”

Describing business groups, by definition advocates for specific businesses or industries, as “conservative business groups” is disingenuous – to say nothing of framing liberal journalists as “thoughtful” with regard to deficit spending.

Hallett neglected to mention that The Buckeye Institute and Opportunity Ohio, both of Ohio’s free market think tanks, oppose Medicaid expansion, as does the libertarian 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

As for Ohio Right to Life, Kasich appointed former executive director Mike Gonidakis to the State Medical Board of Ohio in late 2012.

Hallett quoted approvingly from Governor Kasich’s February 19 State of the State address, wherein the governor abandoned any pretense of conservatism with his embrace of PPACA’s Medicaid expansion “for those that live in the shadows of life.”

While failing to note that Kasich has lied repeatedly about how Medicaid expansion funding works in what seems a deliberate effort to make Republican legislators feel trapped, Hallett described Kasich’s 2013 State of the State as “perhaps the best speech of his governorship.”

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