My suspicion is that President Obama, with the media wind at his back and the support of powerful unions like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is going to overreach and alienate the great center of the American public, which, for the moment, is backing him, generously offering the benefit of the doubt to the new president who, incidentally, is black.
The economic stimulus package that Congress enacted in mid-February offers billions of dollars to states to help them keep their healthcare programs for the poor from running short of cash. The bill includes a "maintenance of effort" clause to prevent states from using the new federal dollars to lower their spending on healthcare at counties' expense. The SEIU argued that California's cuts violated that clause, and at least one attorney at the federal Department of Health and Human Services has agreed.
That stance is unreasonable, and Washington should drop its threat to rescind the extra Medicaid dollars. State officials were discussing a cut to home healthcare long before the stimulus package passed, so Sacramento is hardly using federal dollars to lower its own spending. Beyond that, the situation smacks of the SEIU -- which, inappropriately, joined a conference call among state and federal officials on the wage issue -- trying to refight in Washington a battle it lost in Sacramento.