Is it conservative for Ohio Gov. John Kasich to invoke Christ’s name in defense of Obamacare? At least one First Things contributor thinks it is.
If you’re a First Things fan or a masochistic follower of Kasich’s presidential campaign, you may have read Thursday’s post by James R. Rogers, “MATTHEW 25 AND JOHN KASICH’S AUTHENTIC AMERICAN CONSERVATISM.”
The post is, in a word, terrible. My initial reaction was to snark about its terribleness on Twitter, point some other conservative Christian writers in its general direction, and move on.
(If you know me, you won’t be surprised to find that now I’m offering a more extended reaction. That said, I’ll try to keep this brief.)
Kasich, in the course of defending his decision to take Obamacare money to put childless, able-bodied, working-age adults on Medicaid, frequently alludes to the Bible as justification.
Usually he doesn’t cite a specific chapter and verse, but about a year ago Kasich went on a kick of using Matthew 25's depiction of judgment day as God’s divine endorsement of billions in new federal welfare spending.
Here are the verses in question, from the New Revised Standard Version:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
If you read this and think, “boy, it sounds a lot like John Kasich believes critics of his Obamacare expansion are going to Hell,” you’re not alone.
Framing Matthew 25 as an argument for the State to rob Peter in order put Paul on welfare is ugly rhetoric to call “conservative,” even when discussing government spending generally.
But Rogers did precisely that, albeit without mentioning Obamacare or Medicaid — an absurdity in and of itself, given that Kasich’s use of Matthew 25 to promote bigger government has always been specifically in defense of his Obamacare Medicaid expansion.
In his First Things post, Rogers spoke only of welfare spending in a general sense, writing that “employing the government to help take care for the needy predates the Republic, and is as American as apple pie.”
“A fully traditional, conservative orientation informs Kasich’s conservatism on this issue. Full stop. End of story,” Rogers wrote after asserting Christian scholar Marvin Olasky is wrong to draw a distinction between private charity and government coercion where Matthew 25 is concerned.
Nope. Giving John Kasich a pass on billions in new welfare spending (which, as an aside, Kasich has been unrelentingly dishonest about) is not the end of this story.
Kasich’s Obamacare expansion has already cost federal taxpayers more than $6 billion. Around 650,000 Ohioans are enrolled in the program, far more than the Kasich administration projected.
This is great, if you assume federal spending is free money, welfare benefits aren’t a disincentive to work, and Medicaid is an effective program that should be extended to childless, able-bodied, working-age adults.
Before Obamacare, Medicaid was a program for the elderly, the disabled, children, pregnant women, and impoverished families.
One of the myriad problems with Obamacare expansion is that its unsustainable funding formula puts those individuals — America’s most vulnerable — at risk of losing whatever benefits Medicaid provides.
Another is that the national debt was $18 trillion before Obamacare cut a stack of blank checks to states agreeing to the Medicaid expansion.
If America’s indigent are to have health care, someone must bear the cost: either private charities, or local hospitals and their paying customers, or some larger, more distant government entity.
Medicaid expansion is not a charitable decision to give poor people access to health care; it’s a political decision to push the costs for that care onto federal taxpayers. In what sense is that Christian? In what sense is it conservative?
Worse than avoiding this crucial discussion, Rogers chimed in to stand up for one of the most prolific abusers of God’s word when it comes to conflating private charity and government coercion.
Like I said: Terrible. Forgive me if I should’ve left it at that.