June 15, 2011

Manchin is Taking a Responsible Approach | Charleston Daily Mail

The Democratic Party has to prove it can handle other people’s money.

West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both former governors of the state, have parted company on Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides medical care to 68 million poor people nationwide.

Manchin’s is the fiscally responsible position, which is politically wise. The Democratic Party needs to prove at this point that it can act in such a manner.Congress has indebted Americans to the tune of $14.3 trillion. Republicans argue — correctly — that Congress must stop its out-of-control spending.

Social Security and Medicare will go bust if they are not changed, and the mushrooming costs of the Medicaid program threaten to break many states.

As the Daily Mail’s Ry Rivard noted in reporting on the senators’ respectful disagreement, those three programs, along with the Children’s Health Insurance Program, account for 40 percent of the government’s expenditures of $3.5 trillion in the 2010 federal budget year.

Unless Democrats want the blame for astronomical tax increases, these programs must be redesigned to be sustainable. That means their costs must be trimmed along with everything else.

House Republicans approved a plan that would have Medicaid give block grants to states, give them more flexibility in designing benefits, and cut federal spending on the program by more than $700 billion over 10 years.

Forty-one Senate Democrats, including Rockefeller, signed letters opposing cuts to the program.

Manchin indicated he might be open to some change.

Rockefeller cast the choice in partisan political terms, blasting “vicious attempts to roll back government programs designed to give low-income Americans a hand up in life” and charging that Republicans are “looking out for big-deal people and big-deal corporations.”

Manchin took a mathematical approach, saying: “I believe in giving states more flexibility because every state is different, and one-size regulations don’t fit all.”

Manchin added, tellingly: “This nation is facing a death spiral of debt, and if it continues to spiral downward, we will be facing cuts in areas no one wants to think about cutting.”

Fiscally responsible Democrats are as rare as hens’ teeth in Washington today. That’s not a good situation for a party to be in when it is running for a budgetary job — the power to spend other people’s money.

Manchin deserves credit for insisting that Democrats, too, must be able to balance budgets.

That’s politically smart.

It’s more appealing to voters.

By:  Editorial