Misunderstanding the Welfare State

Last week in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, in the heart of his home district, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) found himself in an unexpected situation. At his own town hall, the Republican leader of the House Oversight Committee faced a crowd of rambunctious, aggressive constituents holding signs calling the prominent congressman a “disgrace” and “spineless”. While the presence of protestors at his own town hall was surprising to the Congressman, what was more surprising to the rest of the country was where that protest was taking place.

Congressman Chaffetz’s district, Utah’s third congressional district, is amongst the most Republican in the entire country. In 2014, the district ranked seventh for most Republican, with a partisan voting index of R+28. The partisan voting index is a formula that calculates the percentage that a congressional district “leans” to one side or the other compared to other districts. In Utah’s third district, Republicans are 28 percent more likely to be elected than Democrats compared to other states in the 2014 election. Considering that the 2014 midterm elections produced the largest Republican majority in Congress in nearly a decade, a 28 percentage point lean toward Republicans is a telling statistic of how red the district is.


Photo: Rantt.com

So, a by-all-means popular Republican leadership member walks into a town hall in his reddest-of-the-red district and suddenly he is lambasted by his own constituents–the vast majority of which are Republican and voted for Chaffetz–mere weeks into the new Congress.

What gives?

Among the issues depicted on signs and vocalized in the yells of raucous audience members–including Planned Parenthood, the environment, and, of course, Trump–the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, seemed to take precedent among the sea of complaints. Several news outlets noticed that, unlike the other issues constituents brought forth, both sides of the healthcare battle were represented in the audience.

Chaffetz was not the only Republican member to see the wrath of health care protesters. In Tennessee, Rep. Diane Black was forced out of the College Republican event she was headlining at Middle Tennessee State University. In California, Rep. Tom McClintock was escorted by police after his town hall meeting. Meanwhile, other Republicans have been forced to cancel meetings across the country, as well as “mobile office hours”–which members typically do not attend–due to the sheer amount of people protesting at every opportunity. Offices on Capitol Hill have since been inundated with telephone calls asking when the next town hall will be held, and some district offices have reported protests forming daily, demanding a town hall is held.

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All of these protests arising from voters that feel slighted by the GOP’s recent actions–and in some instances inaction–regarding healthcare. Understandably, proponents of the ACA are upset with Republican efforts to do away with the bill. But, for some reason, the pro-repeal crowd also feels as though the Republicans are not doing what they promised as ACA repeal measures begin to take shape.

What does not compute is why voters would support Republicans in huge majorities in the recent elections while they knew the GOP would repeal the ACA, yet still protest and express their dismay as Republicans go through the motions of repealing the system.

This cuts deeper than buyer’s remorse.

There appears to be an inherent disconnect here between what nearly every Republican’s platform was and the actual desires of the voters.

While there was nary a Republican in the U.S. that excluded repealing Obamacare from their list of campaign promises, the equation was missing a major component, seemingly an afterthought for Republicans: the replace.

Yes, many Americans supported Republicans in the hopes of tearing up Obamacare, and that is what many GOPers ran on. But, voters also expected the torn-up healthcare system to be replaced with an alternative that was cheaper, better, and that continued to cover the same amount of people. This is what Republicans overlooked. And now, they are paying the price.

Turning to West Virginia.

Perhaps more than any other state, the need for entitlements and welfare permeate nearly every level of society in West Virginia. West Virginia gets more federal government money per person than anywhere else in the nation. This is especially true of healthcare.


Source: WVPolicy.org

In terms of Medicare, West Virginia receives the most benefits as a percentage of personal income out of any state (6.3 percent in West Virginia, compared to 4.1 percent nationally). As for Medicaid, nearly 1 in 5 West Virginians were enrolled in 2010, with 13 percent of individuals uninsured. West Virginia was one of the only states with majority Republican representation to expand Medicaid under the ACA. As the above map demonstrates, few counties have less than 50 percent of individuals enrolled, with two counties above 90 percent enrollment, since the state opted-in to the expansion. 

Additionally, West Virginia’s reliance on the SNAP program, veterans benefits, Social Security, and unemployment benefits, as well as other federal aid programs, makes the state as close to a welfare state as one can find in the U.S.

For Republicans in West Virginia’s congressional delegation–three GOP congressmen and one senator–this fight is likely coming sooner rather than later to the Mountain State. West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito has introduced her own replacement plan while other GOPers are also unveiling alternatives to the ACA. With Tom Price now confirmed as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services–where Obamacare “lives”–Republicans are looking to move quickly and avoid the calamity surrounding their healthcare overshot.



2 thoughts on “Misunderstanding the Welfare State

  1. kylechinner says:

    Fascinating post Eli. The anger you describe in Utah’s third district really helps contextualize the many other heated town halls that are taking place around the country. I haven’t read your blog before, but I will certainly return. Your perspective on US Politics is refreshing.
    Great visuals too. The photos you included certainly reflect the severity of the anger you describe. And, the map you include of WV helps illustrate the state’s dependence on Medicaid. The GOP better role out their plan soon…


  2. rachelarmany says:

    I really like your use of visuals here—I think you do a good job of breaking up visual and text and making the post very clear and easy to follow. I also appreciate how your content is intended to clear up misconceptions—I think there is a growing need for more posts like this in an age of fake news, unchecked facts, etc. Nice post!


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