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Bluegrass Beacon: Reforming Medicaid, tweaking elections and overcoming evil

Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Past expanded government programs, present evil and future gubernatorial elections highlight this first edition of “Liberty Boosters and Busters” in 2018.

Liberty Boosters: President Trump for allowing states waivers to create work requirements for able-bodied adults added to Medicaid as part of Obamacare, and Gov. Matt Bevin for ensuring Kentucky was first in line for approval.

Progressives are taking legal action, claiming such requirements weren’t part of the 1965 law creating Medicaid.

The reason they weren’t is that Medicaid was intended to serve a much-smaller group.

It was created as a safety net for those incapable of helping themselves, not able-bodied adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – nearly $21,000 for individuals and $43,000 for a family of four.

Medicaid wasn’t intended to cover those who can work or at least volunteer in their communities.

It certainly wasn’t made to serve 68 million Americans, 1.4 million of whom are Kentuckians.

Ideological opponents salivate at the opportunity to paint a picture of conservatives as hardened brutes who would rather see the poor die in the streets than receive Medicaid benefits.

But hardworking taxpayer-voters get it.

The same Kaiser Family Foundation poll that shows nearly 75 percent of the public view Medicaid favorably as a safety-net program also reports 70 percent of Americans agree with allowing states to impose work requirements on beneficiaries.

Liberty Buster: Lexington Democratic state Sen. Reggie Thomas apparently thinks 10-percent turnouts in gubernatorial elections is preferable to tweaking election law to increase voter participation.

Thomas in a floor debate of a bill giving voters the opportunity to amend Kentucky’s constitution to include elections for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and agriculture commissioner in even-numbered years when presidential elections bring significantly higher turnout, claimed voters would be confused by the change.

“I don’t think we should confuse who is running for president … with who is going to be our governor,” 

Thomas said in the floor debate on the bill before it received 24-11 approval by the Kentucky Senate.

Does Thomas believe voters are incapable of understanding that while who’s elected president matters, Washington isn’t going to solve problems most affecting their daily lives, like Kentucky’s pension crisis, widening education-achievement gap or budget deficits?

Voters aren’t confused. But they and their county clerks are election-fatigued, considering Kentuckians go to the polls three out of every four years.

Or, at least a few of them do.

Barely 10 and 12 percent of eligible voters turned out in the most recent off-year primaries and fewer than one in three cast ballots in the general elections, compared with nearly 60 percent in Kentucky’s 2016 presidential tally.

Yet Thomas claims the proposed constitutional amendment “goes in the wrong direction.”

So, doubling the number of voters deciding who leads the commonwealth, saving counties millions and curing election fatigue “goes in the wrong direction”?

Now I’m confused.

Life Booster: Tracy Tubbs, whose 15-year-old niece Bailey Holt’s loving life was senselessly snuffed out in the recent shooting attack at Marshall County High School.

One of Holt’s fellow students stands accused in the attack, which killed two, injured at least 18 others and shattered countless lives in the tight-knit Benton community.

It’s tempting to make the story all about a lost young man.

But Tubbs told reporters that’s not how her niece did life.

“She would absolutely tell us all to stop all the fuss, not be angry, forgive him and pray for his mom,” Tubbs said. “She would not have an angry bone in her body. She would rather us turn our pain into something good, and that’s the best way we are going to represent her life.”

Talk about love in biblical proportions: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at and @bipps on Twitter.

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