The most ideologically pure of the Missouri Republican House caucus are pushing Allen Icet, head of the budget committee, to turn down 100–absolutely freakin’ free–million dollars. All those hundreds of millions of pennies would cost our cash strapped state not a single penny. For them to thumb their collective nose at such free funds is not penny wise and pound foolish but just plain foolish.

The Missouri Hospital Association is willing–nay, wanting–to give the state more than fourteen million dollars ($14,150,000 to be precise) to be used for health care for Missourians making less than half the poverty wage. That investment would bring in another $91.7 million in federal dollars–almost $104 million altogether. But the Republicans oppose giveaways to those church mice. The effrontery of anyone to remain in such penury! Why don’t they go out and earn a Ph.D. in chemistry and make a decent living working for Monsanto?

That mindset is the real reason for this Republican niggardliness, but they’ll have to come up with an acceptable pretext. Problem is, they can’t even claim that giving poor folk health care this year will just spoil them for the inevitable loss of largess next year–because those funds won’t disappear. The Hospital Association, with an eye to its bottom line, is in this for the long haul. It will contribute another fourteen mil next year and the year beyond, because doing so makes fiscal sense. Emergency room care–and hospitals end up providing that for the church mice–is outrageously expensive, not only for hospitals but for all of us who pay health insurance premiums. Continuing to provide emergency care instead of offering cheap preventive options would be truly penny wise and pound foolish. And hospitals aren’t ideologues.

While hospitals stand there cash in hand, Democrats are gnashing their teeth at this and other forms of fiscal insanity. For example, Republicans refuse to spend $22 million on SCHIP. Whatever you may think of adults too dimwitted or shiftless to finish their Ph.D.s, you surely don’t believe children choose to be born into poverty. Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) says those kids don’t deserve to be denied health care. Twenty-two million “in the big picture ain’t a lot–and we’ve got it.” If we don’t want them growing up to be dropouts, we’d best start by at least keeping them healthy enough to attend school.

Those are the big ticket items, but the Rs are also petty about smaller ones. They’re cutting funds for programs for seniors, such as meals on wheels. Again, Rs figure, some of those irresponsible poor people have allowed themselves to get old and helpless. But even if you excuse right wing hard-heartedness, forcing elderly people who can no longer cook for themselves into nursing homes they can’t pay for is, fiscally speaking, penny wise and pound foolish.

Cutting five million dollars from county health departments that do water testing, do AIDS testing, and offer flu shots is penny wise and pound ….  

And besides, some of those well educated Republicans probably drink from the water supplies that counties keep safe.

Right wingers also want to cut funds for a program that treats drug addicted pregnant women. Can’t you imagine what the Republican lawmakers would like to say aloud about those ill begotten specimens of humanity, but again: Republicans, could you, just for a minute, be practical? That program has gotten a thousand addicts clean in time to deliver clean babies–thus saving the state millions in the long run. Cutting those funds? Penny wise and ….

Here’s another foolish idea: cutting funds for PKU treatment. Chris Kelly, in an earlier incarnation as a lawmaker, sponsored legislation to protect children born with a metabolic problem called PKU. If those children are given the right kind of diet early–and it’s cheap, a couple of bucks a day–they grow up healthy. If not, they get ill and stay that way for life. They have to be institutionalized, at a cost of about half a million dollars every year. Cutting those funds is, maddeningly, penny … well, you get the idea.