Dave Helling

Missouri’s guns vs. butter debate

Updated: 2013-11-29T06:06:28Z


The Kansas City Star

In late October, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri wrote a column urging his colleagues to continue production of a warplane, the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The Pentagon is slowing production of the plane, preparing to shift to a newer aircraft several years from now. Production of the F/A-18 will stop in 2016.

But Blunt thinks the Defense Department should order more Super Hornets now, in order to keep the production line alive.

About 5,000 people in Missouri help build the planes.

“If the Super Hornet production line ends, there will be an impact on 90,000 workers who contribute to the program in St. Louis and nationwide,” Blunt wrote.

At today’s prices, a fully loaded Super Hornet costs about $55 million, so 20 planes would cost the federal government about $1.1 billion.

As it turns out, that’s almost exactly what it would cost the federal government to expand Medicaid health insurance in Missouri for a year.

Gov. Jay Nixon is still wrestling with Republicans over expanding that program to cover the working poor — folks who make too much for traditional Medicaid but not enough for subsidies under Obamacare.

And interestingly, he and other expansion supporters make roughly the same argument Blunt makes about the Super Hornet: Federal spending means jobs in Missouri.

In fact, Medicaid supporters say, expansion would create about 5,000 jobs in hospitals and nursing homes in the state.

To govern is to choose. So here’s a test: If asked, would you support $1.1 billion for 5,000 Missouri jobs building warplanes, or $1.1 billion for 5,000 jobs treating the sick and elderly?

I know which I’d pick. Perhaps you’d pick the other option.

Either way, though, someone gets helped, and someone else gets hurt. And, increasingly, that zero-sum game defines our government, making it an ever-escalating fistfight over shrinking resources.

The Obamacare roll-out has been a disaster, and reporters have found lots of examples of people who unfairly lost their insurance because of its changes.

If you simply canceled Obamacare tomorrow, though, arguably more people would be hurt — the chronically ill, the uninsurable, the working poor and others who now have coverage they couldn’t get six months ago.

Obamacare hurts some people but helps others.

It might be helpful if politicians were more clear on this point: When resources shrink, policy choices don’t reduce problems. They merely shift the damage, from one group to another.

To reach Dave Helling, call 816-234-4656 or send email to dhelling@kcstar.com.

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