When Scott Walker releases his 2013-15 biennial budget with a public address tonight at the Wisconsin Capitol, I hope people are paying close attention to the health care portion. In it, GovernEr Walker will codify his cruel rejection of $4 billion in federal money proffered (not to be confused with "Prossered") to fully expand Medicaid (BadgerCare in Wisconsin) as part of the Affordable Care Act and extend direct health care coverage to approximately 175,000 additional Wisconsinites. This ignominious decision will cost the state thousands of new jobs that would have accompanied a full Medicaid expansion. It will lower the maximum income threshold for those who are currently childless adults on BadgerCare, kicking them off BadgerCare and over to the federally implemented, private health care exchanges that Walker so despises where they can hopefully afford coverage. It will force countless individuals, who would have otherwise been covered, to avoid preventive care and risk their lives if they become sick, while relying on the last-resort Emergency Room care that drives up everyone's health care costs.
On top of all of that, Scott Walker's ridiculously shortsighted decision to play politics and reject another facet of the Affordable Care Act, after already punting on the opportunity for Wisconsin to create its own exchanges, will cost Wisconsin taxpayers $250 million MORE through 2020 than if he had simply accepted the billions in federal funding. For the first three years, the feds would have fully covered the expansion and by 2020, the coverage would have dipped to 90%.
However, by rejecting the full expansion, Walker has ensured that not only will Wisconsin leave all of those funds on the table, the feds will continue to match only 60% of our Medicaid costs, as they currently do. Even John Kasich (OH), Rick Snyder (MI), Jan Brewer (AZ) and now Rick Scott (FL) accepted the steal of the deal that was laid before them by the federal government, and nobody would ever accuse any of those four governors of being even remotely left of the Tea Party.
That was OUR money that will simply move along to other states because of his rejection, in exactly the same manner this had previously happened after GovernEr-elect Walker convinced then-Governor Jim Doyle to needlessly turn down hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money that would have brought high-speed rail and sustainable jobs to Wisconsin in 2010.
So what about those "hardworking taxpayers" Walker endlessly drones on about protecting when he's bashing unions, the poor, the sick, the elderly, the left? I cannot stress this enough: SCOTT WALKER DOES NOT GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE CITIZENS OF WISCONSIN. He is willing to demolish the foundations of our state at the drop of a hat if it means scoring political points and to prove his ideological purity and devotion to his corporate puppet masters who paid so handsomely for his two gubernatorial electoral victories.
In the meantime, he continues to travel around the country (and occasionally the state), posturing and pandering to right-wing extremists while moving Wisconsin decades in reverse socially, economically and culturally, all with an eye toward the 2016 presidential campaign.
Speaking to an audience last week at the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce in front of many of those who have contributed mightily to his rise to, and continued hold on, power, Walker dropped this little anecdote on the crowd on his decision to reject the federal Medicaid funds:
"Some people will portray this as not caring about people. I think it's just the opposite. I care too much about the people of this state not to empower them to control their own destiny."
Translation: "If you think this removes all doubt that my photo will be placed next to the word "sociopath" in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, you're dead on. Since I have no regard for the impact my actions have on the lives of poor Americans, I will carefully extricate myself from the responsibility of holding onto the social safety net that protects our nation’s most vulnerable individuals. I understand that elected officials are supposed to look out for the best interests of their constituents. However, while in practice I oversee a government so “small” it can fit inside a woman’s uterus, in theory I swear allegiance to a belief in government so small it can drown in a bathtub. Thus, we’re making the calculated decision that those of you most in need are better left to the whims of an austere worldview that grows increasingly antithetical to protecting and achieving those best interests. But hey, at least I’m "freeing" you from the throes of governmental assistance to help you in your time of need. Although some of you may die in the process, at least you'll know you died while independently pulling up your own bootstraps."
It’s a line straight out of the playbook of an abuser. Walker repeatedly assaults and victimizes the poor and middle class, while blaming the victims for the pain he is inflicting and rationalizing that he is doing it out of love. “I’m doing this for your own good, Wisconsin.”
America, meet Scott Walker, grand protector of his lessers, We the Little People. Scotty’s Munchkins! (H/T to my friend and fellow Wisconsin Kossack Plankbob for the Munchkin line.)
If Walker is rejecting the $4 billion Medicaid lifeboat being extended by the federal government because he cares about us so damn much, when else had Scott Walker taken such drastic action to “empower” us out of compassion? Did Scott Walker “care too much” about the sick, the poor and the elderly when he tried to kick 60,000 individuals off BadgerCare in 2011?
Did Scott Walker “care too much” about all the “hardworking taxpayers” when he admitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that the state budget was not only NOT balanced, as he squawked at every breath, but was ACTUALLY running a $2.6 billion deficit, in an attempt to legally kick those 60,000 BadgerCare recipients to the curb? Did Walker “care too much” about those in need when he left tens of thousands of openings in BadgerCare unfilled while tens of thousands of Wisconsinites were left to anxiously flounder on the waiting list?
Did Scott Walker “care too much” for homeowners whose lives were thrown into turmoil during the Wall Street-induced devastation of the economy when he used over $25 million of the $31 million allocation in federal funds from the mortgage crisis settlement to plug holes in his budget? Did Walker “care too much” about teachers, snowplow drivers, janitors, prison guards, social workers, nurses and public servants when he slashed their pay and stole their rights to organize and have a say over the conditions of their workplaces? Did Walker “care too much” about these public sector workers when he shamefully vilified and scapegoated them for Wisconsin’s budgetary shortfall that he created when he simultaneously issued $2.3 billion in corporate tax breaks shortly after taking office?
Did Scott Walker “care too much” about the children of our state, undoubtedly the lifeblood of its future, when he slashed an estimated $1.6 billion from public education funding through direct cuts and freezes on local revenue caps, while ensuring that thousands of experienced teachers and potential mentors for those same children would opt to leave the state or retire?
Did Scott Walker “care too much” about women and minorities when he signed off on the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, a law designed to help protect anyone discriminated against in the workplace by providing an additional avenue to pursue litigation in state courts? Did Walker “care too much” about same-sex couples when he decided to discontinue the state’s defense of the Domestic Partner Registry that protected those couples’ rights to hospital visitations and end-of-life decision-making?
Did Scott Walker “care too much” about women and their ability to take preventive and potentially life-saving measures to control their health and their bodies when he moved to defund Planned Parenthood, worked to limit access to birth control and removed Planned Parenthood as the state’s provider of the Wisconsin Well Woman Program, putting thousands of uninsured and underinsured rural and poor women at risk? Did Walker “care too much” about all citizens, especially minorities, students, the elderly and the poor when he worked to curtail hard-won voting rights by implementing a draconian Voter ID law and floating his enthusiasm for the elimination of same-day voter registration?
Did Scott Walker “care too much” about the working poor in Wisconsin when he slashed the Earned Income tax credit for hundreds of thousands of low-income citizens? Did Walker “care too much” about children with special needs and disabilities and their families when he snuck $21 million worth of “Special Needs” vouchers into his soon-to-be-released budget, despite zero support and overwhelming opposition from specialists, educators and parent advocacy groups for children with special needs? Did Walker “care too much” about these beautiful children when he offered their families the option of leaving the public schools system for private schools, leaving their federally protected rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act behind along with any guarantee of receiving the focused attention and educational plans they so dearly need?
Did Scott Walker “care too much” about the citizens of Wisconsin when his right-hand man, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, authorized the Capitol Police to harass, intimidate, profile, ticket and arrest peaceably assembling citizens for the crimes of holding signs, waving banners and daring to sing songs in defiance of his authority in the public forum of OUR Capitol Rotunda?
Did Walker “care too much” about our state’s indigenous Ojibwe peoples and their livelihood when he repeatedly made the construction of Wisconsin’s own Grand Canyon (a 21-mile-long open pit iron mine and environmental disaster-waiting-to-happen in the heart of the sacred Penokee Hills and on the headwaters of the equally sacred Kakagon Sloughs wild rice beds) the centerpiece of his mythological and rapidly tanking “Fountain of Jobs” plan? Did Walker “care too much” about Wisconsin’s native peoples and their federally protected and guaranteed rights when he allowed his Teapublican underlings to ram this mining bill through consecutive sessions of the state legislature without ever once sitting down to consult with the affected Ojibwe bands?
Did Scott Walker “care too much” about the people in the streets when he discussed with his henchmen the idea of planting agents provocateur into the throngs of hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters (which included children, the elderly and the disabled) in order to incite violence and turn public opinion against the massive, peaceful uprising that broke out in February 2011? Did Scott Walker “care too much” about the people of our state when he backed away from this idea, not because it would have been an unconscionably dangerous action and reprehensible violation of the public trust, but rather because the ensuing public outcry may have been politically untenable and forced the GovernEr to compromise on his signature Budget “Repair” Bill?
(Skip ahead to the 4:20 mark of the video to hear Ian Murphy from the Buffalo Beast acting as "David Koch" during his disturbing conversation with Walker over the idea of "plantin' some troublemakers.")
I fully believe that Scott Walker cares about people. He cares about the ridiculously wealthy corporatists and special-interest lobbyists who bought and paid for his seat on the throne of Fitzwalkerstan. He cares about the corporations that spread his propaganda, laid the foundations of his ALEC-driven agenda and reap the benefits of his fully realized and transparently extremist ideologies. After all, Scott Walker is a strong proponent of the post-Citizens United, Mitt Romney School of Absurd Thought that holds that “Corporations are people, my friend.” For the rest of us, who have been taken hostage and cast by Scott Walker into his vast sea of “caring,” it will take decades of maneuvering through the wreckage he and his minions have wrought before we eventually return to the shores of the land we once knew as the great state of Wisconsin.
During a particularly vindictive and ominous rant last January, Senate Majority Leader and Walker rubber-stamp Scott Fitzgerald was quoted as saying, “If you think this budget was scary, wait until the next one.”
Well, the “next one” is nearly upon us. If Feb. 11, 2011 was the day that Scott Walker “dropped the bomb” on the citizens of Wisconsin, Feb. 20, 2013 will be the day Scott Walker unleashes the full nuclear arsenal at his disposal. I don’t know how much more of Scott Walker’s “caring” we will be able to withstand before irreparable harm has been done to our once-progressive Wisconsin.
I consider it extremely fortunate that we Badgers have established such a well-developed sense of community and a tenacious fighting spirit over the past two years in order to withstand these trying times. After all, if we’re going to stay afloat, we just have to keep paddling — Forward.
Photo courtesy of Callen Harty from the 2nd anniversary of the Wisconsin Uprising on Valentine's Day 2013
4:36 PM PT: I would love to stay and chat in the Comments below, but now the time has come for me to rush down to the Capitol and protest our faithful GovernEr from outside the Assembly chambers where will he will be delivering his budget address. Thank you all for your continued support of myself, fellow Wisconsin Kossacks and the entire Wisconsin Movement in these trying times. Solidarity!