Retired Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones is trying to have it both ways.
On the one hand, Jones worries about the ballooning national debt, which now sits at a staggering $21 trillion. He complained in a recent article that there’s an insufficient flock of Republican deficit hawks in the congressional nest. If there were more deficit hawks, he posits, America wouldn’t hold such an incomprehensible debt load.
Jones, who suggested Republicans raise taxes to address the debt problem, wrote earlier this month, “It is fiscally irresponsible and hypocritical of those who profess to be concerned about debt and deficits to fail or refuse to raise sufficient revenue to cover outlays.”
This is the same Jim Jones who constantly pimps for Proposition 2’s Obamacare expansion. Thus, Jones advocates Idahoans add nearly $5 billion to the national debt through the next decade.
He wrote in August 31 commentary, approving Proposition 2 on Idaho’s general election ballot is the right thing to do “economically, morally, and equitably.” Nowhere in that column did he discuss the national debt that he had previously found so troubling.
Does Medicaid expansion contribute to the national debt about which Jones is so worried? Yes.
Further, Medicaid expansion is the costliest provision of the badly-named Affordable Care Act. According to the Congressional Budget Office, over the course of a decade, Obamacare’s nationwide Medicaid expansion is expected to contribute as much as $1 trillion to the national debt. For the moment, that’s just a good guess. In 2014, the CBO projected Medicaid expansion would cost the federal government $42 billion in 2015. That estimate was low by a mere 62 percent.
Here in Idaho, according to the state’s own numbers, Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would add more than $4.7 billion to the national debt over the next 10 years. And that’s a conservative estimate. Based on the repeated experiences of other states, the real price will likely come in much, much higher.
Jones is right: The national debt is a problem, and he’s right to attack the unwillingness of Congress to address the issue. But, now, Jones advocates adding to the problem. The federal government spends too much. It spends on broken, duplicative, and unconstitutional programs. It spends on programs that produce no results except to waste taxpayer money. Everyone knows this to be true. This would still be the case even if the politicians in Washington, D.C., followed Jones' suggestion to raise taxes.
Nobody argues that the federal government is a great steward of taxpayer money. The biggest debt-drivers are the very entitlement programs that Jones wants to expand. Were Jones to get his wish, lawmakers—Democrats and Republican alike—would quickly find new ways to blow the additional revenue.
Tax increases wouldn’t tackle the real problem: excessive spending by all involved.
Here in Idaho, we can’t unilaterally end deficit spending by the federal government. However, we can play a positive role. For the last several years, Idaho’s Legislature, by rejecting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, has done an outstanding job of not adding unnecessarily to the national debt. Because they said "no" to expanding Obamacare, numerous other states have similarly avoided compounding the country’s spending problem.
Jones wrote, the national debt is a problem caused by Republicans who want lower taxes. To the contrary, the real issue is people like Jones who recognize that the national debt is a problem, but who find it’s more important to be generous with other people’s money.