Will Michigan Legislators Add to National Debt?

They will, by $22 billion, if they approve Medicaid expansion

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Goldwater Institute policy analyst Christina Corieri explains that if legislators in Michigan and other states decline Obamacare’s invitation to vastly increase Medicaid spending, they won’t be sending other states any dollars that Michigan might have received from some finite pot of money earmarked for this purpose.

That’s because there is no such “Medicaid expansion fund.”

Instead, all the extra spending goes right on the nation’s credit card, adding some $950 billion to the national debt between 2014 and 2022 depending on how many states go along.

According to an email from Corieri, if Michigan legislators accept the Medicaid expansion, they will be approving an increase in the national debt of $22.5 billion through 2022.

However, this may not seem very convincing to state politicians. Some of them will argue it makes sense to impose decades of increased debt service expenses on future taxpayers in the other 49 other states to cover extra federal dollars the expansion would deliver to Michigan hospitals in the short term.

This argument is not invalid, but it sidesteps the morality of forcing any future American — including many who aren’t even born yet — to pay for services consumed by today’s greatest-spending generation. Moreover, taking this position challenges the credibility of any lawmaker who claims to be a fiscal conservative opposed to expanding the federal debt. Here’s how Corieri put it in her article:

State policy makers fed up with federal spending finally have a chance to do something about it. Although many governors regularly take to the airwaves to call out Washington for its fiscal profligacy, they will be complicit if they go along with the expansion of Medicaid.

Many governors and many state legislators will be complicit, she should have said.