A Conservative is someone who wants nothing in Government to change (long as they are in charge). A Conservative thinks the world should never change, society should never change, and if they could somehow dial everything back to the 1950’s — where Ward Clever was King, and Ronald Reagan was hawking lightbulbs for GE — that everything in the world would be just swell…. In [other] word[s], a Conservative wants everything to be “just peachy” again — like when they were kids. Conservatives Biggest Problem is that they think the Role of Government is that it should have No Role. That once they finally get to turn back the clock to “Peachy-ville” — what Bill O’Reilly fondly recalls as Levittown, back in his formative years — that then at that magic moment, Government should just Quit.
Have you ever wondered what AmeriKKKa might look like after our Tea Party overlords have ushered in our New Idiocracy ©? If you think that America would be a better place (to be a White, Christian, Conservative Patriot), you might want to take a look at two states that the Tea Party and Evangelical Republicans (I’m not certain there’s a difference) have remade in their own image. Texas and Floriduh have turned themselves into Tea Party laboratories, where the Far Right has free reign to
work their magic wreak havoc without recourse or fear of retribution.
To be charitable about it, Texas and Floriduh paint a very disturbing picture. It’s a portrait of two states engaged in a race to the bottom- disenfranchising minorities, denying reproductive health care to women…in short, something Ayn Rand would be beaming with pride over. In both Texas and Floriduh, it’s “Welcome the New Age of Personal Responsibiiity,” where you’re on your own and the social contract has been shredded (unless you’re wealthy). Lost your job? Disabled? Chronic illness? Sorry, fellow patriot; you’re on your own. No handouts to the lazy and unmotivated, knowhutimean? We wouldn’t want any of y’all to become dependent on government. Besides; if we fund the social safety net how will we finance tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy?
Texas, in its rush to prove just how much it hates Planned Parenthood, slashed its family planning budget last year by 2/3. Fifty clinics closed as a result, leaving roughly half of Texas women unable to find or afford contraception in the three month before they became pregnant.
[Insert joke about keeping ‘em barefoot and pregnant here.]
Texas’ state health commission estimates the Lone Star State will see nearly 24,000 unplanned births between 2014 and 2015. Texas taxpayers will see federal and state costs increase by up to $273 million. In a state where 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and one of every three women of child bearing age lack health insurance, this could be cause for embarrassment. Sadly, it appears that most Texans are blissfully unaware of these facts. They should be paying closer attention; they’re the ones who are going to pay the freight for such dismissive and short-sighted public policy.
Penny-wise and pound foolish? The future holds the answer to that, but Texans, even if they don’t care about the fate of individual women, should be concerned about the impact it will have on their own bank accounts. It won’t be insubstantial.
Despite the 2/3 lopped of the top of the state’s family planning budget, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission continues to insist that the Lone Star State has the capacity to absorb the responsibility of addressing women’s reproductive health care (They also insist winged pigs had been sighted over Austin). To call that scenario unlikely doesn’t begin to address the dire straits Texas women find themselves in. The remaining clinics are struggling under the burden of additional demands for services while available funds dry up. Some are introducing a fee-for-service structure, which effectively eliminates those women unable to afford even the most basic care.
“If you put fees in place, even if they’re pretty modest, patients just don’t come in, or they don’t come in as often,” says Sarah Wheat, vice president for community affairs at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “We’ll have patients who, if they had a high gas bill that month, or a high electricity bill, they’ll think, ‘Okay, well maybe next month I can go in.’ Or they’re going to say, ‘Let me just get the gonorrhea test. I’ll pay for the chlamydia test next time.’”
Hey, if God had meant for you to have access to reproductive health care, he would have given you a wealthy man to marry….
And then there’s Floriduh….
Obamacare is a particular target of tea party wrath in Florida, but it’s hardly the only one in a state where the movement’s ideology has permeated every layer of government. In just one year, Scott and his conservative allies slashed state spending by $4 billion even as they cut corporate taxes. They’ve rejected billions in federal funds in one of the states hardest hit by the recession. They’ve axed everything from health care and public transportation initiatives to mosquito control and water supply programs. “Florida is where the rhetoric becomes the reality. It’s kind of the tea party on steroids,” says state Rep. Mark Pafford, a Democrat. “We’ve lost all navigation in terms of finding that middle ground.”
It’s difficult to know, much less understand, what Floridians were thinking when they elected Rick Scott as their Governor. A neophyte politician and one of the most corrupt businessmen in the Sunshine State’s history, Scott’s campaign platform could have been described in three words: “Slash and Burn.” His only real selling point was his vast fortune, amassed while he was CEO of Hospital Corporation of America. During Scott’s tenure, HCA was convicted of systematically defrauding the federal government with a series of elaborate schemes aimed at overbilling for various services. HCA pleaded guilty in 2000 to 14 federal felony charges and paid $1.7 billion in fines.
[Insert “too big to go to jail” joke here. Please.]
Who says crime doesn’t pay??
Upon taking office, Scott forced Florida’s state government, cash-starved under the best of circumstances, to slash spending. His first budget reduced the corporate income tax, gutted education spending, reduced unemployment benefits, cut aid to the disabled, and…well, you get the idea. While he didn’t get everything he wanted, the budget passed by the Legislature created a state government $4.6 billion lighter than it had been in 2006. And Scott wasn’t done scorching Florida’s scorched earth, vetoing
a record $615 million worth of spending for, among other things: homeless veterans, meals for seniors, whooping-cough vaccines for low-income mothers, an independent living center for the developmentally disabled, and, of course, public radio.
Somewhere warm and breezy, Ayn Rand is snickering maniacally into her Dos Equis….
Thousands of state, county, and local government jobs were eliminated, and unemployment benefits, which have never been lavish in Florida, shrunk even further. Though Scott’s austerity was sinking his state deeper into recession, it was becoming perversely more difficult to receive any sort of assistance.
Making matters even worse is the amount of federal assistance Florida has rejected for…well, for reasons only Rick Scott and his Tea Party benefactors fully understand. Among the money left on the table:
- $2.4 billion: High-speed rail
- $37.5 million: Support for people moving out of nursing homes
- $31.5 million: Home visits for new mothers
- $11.1 million: Teen pregnancy and STD prevention
- $8.3 million: Three county health centers
- $2.1 million: Helping Floridians navigate the health insurance industry
- $2 million: Hospice care for children
- $2 million: Aid for seniors to pay for Medicare premiums and buy prescription drugs
- $1 million: Strengthening state review of insurance premium increases
- $1 million: Insurance exchange to help consumers compare plans and buy subsidized coverage
- $875,000: Cancer prevention
In short, Florida, which has always been a playground for the rich, has become a laboratory for the Tea Party’s desire to create a two-tier society. Those who have are largely unaffected by Scott’s rampant austerity. Those on the lower reaches of the economic food chain, however, can count on little more than a big #&%$ YOU! from their state government.
Lost your job? To apply for unemployment benefits, you’ll have to spend 45 minutes taking a math and reading test. Congrats, you passed! Your check will be no more than $275 a week. But don’t get sick—you won’t qualify for Florida Medicaid if your income is more than $3,200 a year. And don’t come looking for a postpartum whooping-cough vaccine or meningitis shots for your baby: Scott vetoed $2.7 million to pay for those, along with $100,000 for a fetal alcohol program and $100,000 for a special-needs charter school. Have a nice day.
Have a nice day and #&%$ YOU!, indeed. Gov. Scott, having grasped a basic tenet of politics- the poor and minorities vote at much lower rates than the rich and well-connected- has set about creating an economic environment favorable to business and those with wealth. Unfortunately, the poor, the sick, the elderly, and minorities are largely left to fend for themselves. Hey, it’s not like they vote Republican….
One of two things can happen going forward. Texas and Florida can be viewed as cautionary tales, examples of what can happen when ideologues and zealots seize power. Or the American Sheeple can continue to ignore what’s being done on their behalf and allow Tea Party politicians to continue shredding the social contract.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out which option is more likely.
My lack of faith in the wisdom and attention span of the American Sheeple means that both Texas and Floriduh are likely to collapse upon themselves. And the voters of both states will have only themselves to blame.