From the New Nebraska Network:
This spring, I attended a forum hosted by the Nebraska Department of Insurance on the state's implementation of the 2010 health care reform bill. Our Republican Governor Dave Heineman sat in the back of the UNL Student Union's ballroom throughout the presentation by two young policy analysts - Michael Sciullo and John Paul Sabby - who were hired by the Heineman Administration with grant money from the federal government.
If any one moment really stuck out from that spring forum, it was a question from the audience directed towards Sciullo and Sabby asking about their backgrounds. I couldn't tell whether the unidentified audience member was skeptical about the qualifications or the motivations of those our state was relying upon in setting up its health insurance exchange. What I could tell was that Sciullo and Sabby were taken aback by the question and showed quite a bit of hesitancy in broadly responding that they'd both worked in "advocacy."
Personally, I'd assumed this "advocacy" most likely entailed some sort of low-level lobbying for the powerful and politically-entrenched insurance industry that Sciullo and Sabby would now be representing on the public's dime. What I wouldn't have guessed and wasn't at all prepared for was that they'd previously been working as political organizers for the radical right-wing Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) - an offshoot of Congressman Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign. Nor would I have ever guessed that they'd primarily been advocating the extremist message that "government is always oppression."
The picture above shows YAL members Sciullo (in costume) and Sabby (in sunglasses) protesting outside President Barack Obama's Las Vegas political rally for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on October 22, 2010. As someone who's expressed my own share of political dissent over the years, I hate making an issue of young people engaging in the democratic process and exercising their right to free speech. However, the political views actually espoused at this event were so extreme that they raise serious questions about why these two young men were hired for these critical positions and whether the work of the Department of Insurance can possibly be trusted with them at the helm.
British journalist Gary Younge just happened to interview Michael Sciullo in his full "Uncle Sam" costume outside Obama's Las Vegas rally. You can watch the video here or read the following excerpt:
Sciullo: "We want to show people that the government doesn't always give you what they promise. They want to tell you and placate you...It lets you think that everything's great and that they have the solutions and that they can spend their way to prosperity. But, Young Americans For Liberty knows better. We've studied history. And, we know that government is always oppression and that the only true way we can reach prosperity in America is through freedom."
Younge: "Obama won the last election, and there's all these people who've come here to see him. Do you think they've all been duped?"
Sciullo: "Absolutely. Yeah. They think government can take care of all their problems when it was government that created all their problems. That's like saying that, you know, I'm going to be on an all-cupcake diet and I'm going to lose weight."
Younge: "You don't think...they maybe just disagree with you? That maybe they think government's good?"
Sciullo: "I mean they may think government's good, but they don't know their history. They haven't studied enough to realize that government is always oppression."
Keep in mind that these statements were made only one year ago. Just a few months later, Sciullo and Sabby had moved on from (or moved forward with?) their work for YAL and somehow found themselves in a state where they have no apparent personal ties passing as experts on health care and insurance policy. They are now responsible for researching, advising upon, and planning the implementation of a health care reform bill they were protesting just last year. Even more ridiculous and hypocritical, Sciullo and Sabby are being paid by the state with federal funds when at least one of them so adamantly believes "government is always oppression."
There is something very wrong here. When hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans are without health insurance and should be helped by the health care reform bill, we have very good reason to fear that our state officials are putting politics before people and right-wing ideology ahead of the law. The hiring of Sciullo and Sabby suggests that the fix is in and that the integrity of Nebraska state government has been compromised at the highest levels. Are you sure that the same isn't true in your state?