Samuel Kirkwood knew a good deal when he saw it. Kirkwood, Iowa’s governor during the Civil War, jumped when Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act 150 years ago. The law granted federal land for each state to establish public colleges devoted to agriculture and mechanics – education for the common man.
Kirkwood called the legislature into special session and on Sept. 11, 1862 Iowa became the first state to accept the Morrill Act’s terms. The sale or lease of more than 200,000 federally owned acres provided an $800,000 endowment – a huge sum in those days – for the fledgling Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm – the ancestor to Iowa State University. ISU’s Extension Service has helped Iowa farmers modernize operations and boost productivity with the latest research-based practices. It’s helped parents raise children and feed them better. It’s helped businesses run more efficiently. No one can deny Kirkwood made a good bet: ISU research, graduates and service have helped the state prosper.
Now imagine if Terry Branstad was governor in 1862. “Not interested,” he might say. “Too many strings attached,” he might say, or “it’ll just cost us more later.” You have to wonder, because that’s what Branstad says about another too-good-to-pass-up deal: the Affordable Care Act’s funding to extend Medicaid to thousands of Iowa’s uninsured working poor. The federal government pays all the expansion cost in the early years and 90 percent in later years. It’s a bargain, but the governor’s threatened to reject it – largely because, like many hardline Republicans, he opposes the entire health care act and doesn’t want to be seen participating in any of it.
It’s not just stupid; for some Iowans, it could be fatal. A study released last week showed that when states expanded their Medicaid programs to give more poor people health insurance, fewer people died (as the New York Times reported).
Branstad’s rejection is a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Too bad the Iowans least able to bear the consequences will suffer the most.
Thomas R. O’Donnell
Mon, August 6, 2012
by Thomas R. O'Donnell