"Good news!" Gov. Asa Hutchinson proclaimed Friday with Trumpian-styled punctuation and restraint on Twitter.
The spasmodically thoughtful governor reported that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., had decided to move more quickly than typical on whether he may resume meanness in Arkansas.
What he wants is to start back throwing poor Arkansas people off Medicaid for the political advantage of it.
Hutchinson put it differently in his tweet, saying, "DC Circuit granted the motion to expedite in the [Arkansas Works] case. Argument will be no later than October. It is good to have the support of the president and [the Department of Justice]."
Ah, yes. Those indeed are the allies Arkansas' meanness requires--a profane, prevaricating and justice-obstructing president as pre-emptively defended by a politically sold-out federal attorney general.
You have all that on one side. You have poor people living in places without job opportunities on the other.
Oh, and you also have the law.
It is on the poor people's side, unless the right wing successfully uses the courts to remake it.
Donald Trump, William Barr, Our Man Asa, the governor's frightful right flank in Arkansas--all are known to have decried federal judges who "make law" rather than merely "interpret" it. But in this case, it is Trump, Barr, Our Man Asa and his frightful flank in Arkansas who seek to have judges "make law."
There plainly exists no federal statute permitting Medicaid to function as a work-requirement or as anything other than a health-care safety net for people otherwise unable to afford medical insurance.
Until recently, the United States liked to think of itself as a place where the sick would not go unattended.
Surely you know the backstory, but in case you've somehow forgotten: To save Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in Arkansas, a noble thing, Hutchinson rebranded the program "Arkansas Works" and lured the votes of mean-spirited right-wing legislators with a promise that he'd throw people off if they didn't prove they were working or seeking work, and volunteering if not finding work.
The Trump administration, liking remote-state meanness when it saw it, ran with the notion--which began in Arkansas and that other thoughtful and compassionate jurisdiction, Kentucky.
The program started with a user-unfriendly computer-click requirement through a portal apparently designed by Maze Makers Inc.
Groups advocating for the poor, citing that the federal Medicaid law speaks only of expanding health care and not of telling people to stick their illnesses where the sun fails to shine, filed suit.
A federal judge in D.C., a Democratic nominee devoted to imposing and not remaking law in this instance, threw out the Arkansas atrocity.
Hutchinson, needing to assure his right flank that his meanness would persist, announced promptly that he'd asked the Trump administration to seek an expedited appeal of this supposedly misbegotten ruling that Medicaid was an "entitlement," to use right-wing code.
(It's simply a health-care helping hand for poor people, which is such an odd thing to demonize in a Christianity-professing society.)
Asa professed to take consolation that the judge hadn't specifically axed the computer-click requirement. But that was because the judge said he didn't need to get to that because the very concept was so blatantly bogus on its face under the law.
So Asa's exclamation on Twitter the other day was an announcement that the appeal had been expedited. Arguments will be heard by October, which passes for expediting.
Meanwhile, the Hutchinson administration has done nothing to restore coverage to the 16,000 to 18,000 people it had kicked off, since the federal court did not order that.
Those poor souls' best hope is to get seriously ill or injured and wind up in an emergency room. From there, hospital administrators could begin the process of re-enrolling them in Medicaid--even without their having to wake from a coma to take a job or click a computer.
For Hutchinson's information--and he knows as much, because his Twitter exclamation was more political than substantive--the D.C. Circuit appeals court has more nominees of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama than George W. Bush and now Trump. Thus, expedited or not, odds at the circuit level favor decency and enforcing the law, not making new right-wing law.
Asa's best hope for lasting exclamation probably hinges on whether he can take this dark-side policy to the new Trump-installed dark side of the U.S. Supreme Court--to Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and maybe the chief, John Roberts.
There hasn't been enough death or retirement on the D.C. Circuit to yet ruin it. It was Anthony Kennedy's decision to retire from swing-vote fame on the U.S. Supreme Court that sent Kavanaugh to the highest court in the land.
That's how it came to be that a preppy beer-keg connoisseur probably offers Arkansas meanness its best hope.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 04/23/2019
Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: Meanness' best hope