The United States is now 50 years into the “unconditional” War on Poverty as declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson in his 1964 State of the Union message. In Alabama among other states, it has morphed into a war on the poor.
The two most prominent evidences of this are the continued existence of a regressive sales tax on grocery food items and the refusal of Alabama’s governor to accept the Medicaid expansion provisions available to Alabama by way of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as ‘Obamacare.’
Food from grocery stores isn’t subject to sales tax when purchased by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT cards (previously and perhaps better known as food stamps.) This is obviously because it is understood that those receiving these necessity benefits need to have them stretch for a month; or at least as long as possible. Food after all is as basic and fundamental a necessity of life as there is—or at least as can be purchased. It is morally inexcusable; morally indefensible—and therefore morally bankrupt—to tax groceries as we tax flat screen televisions or jewelry.
The regressive nature of such taxation is so overtly onerous on the poor that no one can suggest that this has just been a legislative oversight to date. If it has been an oversight then all state office holders should be sued for moral criminal neglect of the poor.
Something similar can be said with regard to the opportunity that is being squandered to help more of Alabama’s increasingly (and increasing) indigent population with entirely federal funds. The Affordable Care Act provides that the states that expand Medicaid to the working poor will be reimbursed for 100% of expansion costs…that’s right 100%…for the first three years, and then the federal government will assume 95% of those costs starting in 2017, and then 90% in 2020 and thereafter, until at least the year 2022. In other words the clock is now ticking on the poorest people in states like Alabama; and the fact of this federal reimbursement suggests that cost to the state of Alabama is certainly not the reason—at least not a credible one.
Further evidence that this is a concerted and concentrated war on the poor is that most of the states who have chosen to opt out of the Medicaid expansion opportunity have the highest uninsured rates (percentages of its residents without health insurance coverage) and therefore are the states in which this expansion would help the most.
This isn’t a principled ‘small government’ stance in opposition to Medicare expansion because these states, including Alabama, are among those that already receive more from the federal government than their citizens pay to the government.
What this is—this unconscionable state sales tax on the most necessary of basic grocery food items; and this obstinate refusal to take government funds to expand health care coverage to the needy—represents a de facto, and all but undeclared, war on the poor of this “great state.”