Alaska tea party candidate: a study in contradictions

Republican senatorial candidate Joe Miller of Alaska has stirred up controversy recently. He is the Tea Party favorite, Palin backed, and it’s no surprise that he believes everything the federal government provides is negative. Miller endorses the idea that the minimum wage is unconstitutional. Now his opponents are claiming he is a hypocrite because he has received federal aid in the past.

It was recently revealed that Miller’s family (including eight children in total) has received federal assistance including federal Medicaid and Denali KidCare, the Alaskan low-income health program. Miller also received thousands of dollars from Uncle Sam in federal agriculture subsidy checks during the 1990’s for a small farm he owned in Kansas. Miller’s wife has also reportedly received unemployment benefits. Miller is now hedging that what he really believes is that such federal-state programs should be maintained and controlled only at a state level.

“There is a proper role for government. The question is, who controls the power, is it at the federal level or the state level? It’s our perspective that the state is the best arbiter, the state’s the best point at which we make those decisions. Because it gets us closer to the people,” Miller said.

The problem with his altered stance is that Medicaid is a federal-state program. Hence, the State of Alaska already has ample control over the Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) programs in Alaska. What the federal government does is require some minimum baseline services in Alaska if they are going to get federal matching funds. The state must also conform to federal guidelines in order to receive funding. But the state is free to provide more than minimum services and still collects the federal match for doing so.

The federal government funds two-thirds of Denali KidCare. To advocate the complete removal of the fed’s role could not only deteriorate the quality of Denali KidCare services, but also increase Alaska’s tax budget, and would ultimately send Alaska’s tax dollars to other states. If Alaska were to take complete financial responsibility with little to zero federal aid it would only make government bigger on a state level and increase state taxes.

To argue against federal control is an impractical stance that can do more harm than good. For instance, one of the fed-established requirements is that the states must abide to anti-nepotism laws in order to prevent hiring based on favoritism to relatives within the public sector, thus providing opportunities to those who possess actual qualifications so that positions, like those in Denali KidCare, are obtained through merit instead of favoritism. In the case of Alaska, no such anti-nepotism laws are enforced on a state level; instead such laws are typically enforced by federal coercion.

By altering his tune because of his hypocrisy what Miller essentially wants is to take federal money, but not have the feds dictate on the conditions on how the money ought to be utilized, which is absurd. The major intrinsic problem Miller faces is the same that all Tea Party advocates face, which is that they generally hold the view that federal funded public programs and services function poorly and tax payer money should not go to the feds running the programs because it is unconstitutional; but instead be operated on a private and state level only.

They simultaneously and zealously believe that any federal program is an infringement on freedom and liberty, while feebly attempting to use the U.S. Constitution’s “original intent” to justify their position. In doing so they tend to be convoluted and contradictory on their policy reforms, as Miller has shown. The Tea Party’s retro step to more state rights and the privatizing of most programs will not solve the country’s problems, but instead would bring the U.S. back to the era of Gilded Age oppression.

Photo: (Jim Lane/PW)