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Kickbacks Don’t Always Work

Nebraska’s Ben Nelson announced today that he will not seek re-election next November, despite the pleas of Harry Reid and other Democrats. Presumably Nelson chose to retire in response to polls that convinced him he faced an uphill battle.

One of the sources of Nelson’s unpopularity in Nebraska was his vote for Obamacare. So this is an opportune moment to recall the Cornhusker Kickback, one of a number of acts of outright corruption on which Obamacare was based. The Kickback provided that the federal government would pick up Nebraska’s tab–but only Nebraska’s–for the new Medicaid recipients that would be created by the statute, apparently in perpetuity. That was the bribe that Obama needed to get Nelson’s vote, and Nelson evidently thought his sweetheart deal would insulate him against criticism for voting for the unpopular bill. One wonders: how can such a special arrangement for a single state possibly be constitutional? But constitutionality was never a big concern where Obamacare was concerned.

To Nelson’s surprise, perhaps, the kickback didn’t entirely placate his Cornhusker constituents. What is wrong with those people? Don’t they know a good payoff when they see one? Maybe Thomas Frank needs to write a new book called What’s the Matter With Nebraska?

The moral, I suppose, is that there are still a considerable number of voters–in the red states, anyway–who are not interested in being bought.

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