Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: What's to be done with a new AG and Medicaid expansion?

Published: Sunday, Dec. 8 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Webb: This issue goes right to the heart of the debate over the proper size, cost and role of government. We are a caring, compassionate people, so what’s not to like about expanding Medicaid to provide health care services to thousands more low-income people? Well, the federal government, which would pay all of the costs for the first few years and most of the costs long-term, is flat-out broke. Any realistic person who wants the country to survive long term understands that we must slow the growth of entitlement programs or we will destroy the economic prospects of our children and grandchildren. However compassionate expanding Medicaid would be, it gets us deeper into unfunded entitlement obligations, just when we should be reducing those obligations. Don’t expand.

In the dysfunction and unpopularity of the federal government, does an opportunity exist for states to assume more responsibility?

Pignanelli: States lost their primacy through abandonment of civil rights, environmental and consumer protection, reducing poverty, etc. and Americans looked to the feds for relief. But when states are willing to risk novel concepts, they usually succeed. Federal breakdowns offer opportunities for local government to provide efficient leadership, especially in health care, financial services, energy and technology. But the states have to do more than gripe about D.C., and offer practical alternatives. Our democracy may depend on it.

Webb: Improved governance is desperately needed at the federal level. So it is greatly disappointing that more attention is not being paid to an obvious solution: restore a proper balance in the federal/state system. One reason the federal government fails is that it is simply trying to do too much. It is impossible to effectively govern a country as big and diverse as America with most authority, money and decision-making centralized in Washington, D.C. In the private sector, any organization as big, bureaucratic, costly and ineffective as the federal government would have been disrupted long ago by smaller, more competent, more nimble entities. It is time for the states to disrupt the federal behemoth via devolution and decentralization. This is not about conservative ideology. It is about competent, effective governance.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D’Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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