Before the national crackup about “keeping your insurance,” Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) sent out almost 100,000 cancelation notices of his own.
In late September, many of Wisconsin’s poorest residents found out that their health coverage had been terminated and they would likely need to pay more to stay insured.
Republicans led by Scott Walker were “reforming” one of the most generous Medicaid programs in the nation. Badgercare currently covers families that earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Next year the program will only cover families that earn up to 100 percent of the poverty level.
As part of a plot to shift the burden of care to the federal government, the governor is moving tens of thousands of Wisconsinites and their families off Badgercare, a program that has been capped since 2009, to bring 80,000 single adults under the poverty level onto the program. But because of problems with Healthcare.gov, Walker wants to delay this move for three months, leaving some of the poorest people in the state with no health insurance for months.
Leave it to Scott Walker to use the greatest attempt to cover the uninsured in generations to leave some his state’s poorest people with no coverage at all.
The Tea Partying governor is also rejecting the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, turning down $100 million this year. The federal government will fund expansion at 100 percent for three years, eventually tapering down to 90 percent by the end of the decade. Currently the feds pay for 60 percent of Badgercare.
Why is Walker turning down this 30 percent raise from the government on behalf of Wisconsin—a decision that could cost his state’s employers $36 million?
“For anyone who says, ‘Why would you not take it?’ My answer is simple. I don’t wanna expose the taxpayers in my state to the burden that’s gonna come due when the federal government reneges on their promise,” Walker told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Wisconsinites receive more than $40 billion in federal funding every year. Walker had no worries about that money arriving when he signed a $100 million property tax cut that mostly benefits corporations and the rich, and millions in tax cuts before it.
The prospect of the federal government reneging on its promise is an argument against increasing border security, building new roads or, especially, maintaining a nuclear arsenal. Are states going to reject military installations because the federal government may renege on the funding? Of course not.
The only people who are even talking about cutting Medicaid are Republicans.
Walker’s real answer is far more sinister, and intimately connected to his real ambitions.
What he’s really saying is, “If I get control of the federal government, I’ll cut millions of Americans off Medicaid. Trust me, because I’ve kicked the poor off their insurance before and I’ll do it again — unlike that squish [New Jersey governor Chris] Christie, who accepted Medicaid expansion.”
Could Scott Walker be playing politics with the lives of his constituents? Has he ever done anything else?
The governor came into office promising to create 250,000 jobs and began by targeting his state’s workers. When the public sector workers agreed to his demands to slash their pay and benefits, he went even further and stripped them of their right to collective bargaining.
When the nation’s labor movement sponsored his recall, Walker and his billionaire friends outspent his opponent 7-1 and won with a larger margin than he was elected with, making him a conquering hero of the far right.
His new book Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge documents his effort to destroy the progressive movement in the state where it was born. For conservative columnist George F. Will, it’s the DaVinci Code that Republicans have been waiting for. “If… enough voters read Walker’s nonfiction thriller, it will make him a — perhaps the — leading candidate for his party’s 2016 presidential nomination,” Will wrote this week.
A willingness to put a hurt on public workers combined with a miserable record of creating jobs seem to be the leading qualifications to be a Republican frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination.
With 14 months of his term remaining, Walker is 153,518 jobs short of his 250,000 promise. The Badger state is 34th in job creation and has been creating new jobs at a rate lower than the national economy since the governor took office. Though he recently bragged that the state has created 10,000 jobs, the actual number is 4,014 unless you count Girl Scout troops, little leagues and a ping-pong club — as Walker obviously does.
Wisconsin’s neighbor Minnesota, meanwhile, has created one of the fastest-growing economies in the union by embracing policies just about the exact opposite of those Walker has championed.
Medicaid expansion would create an estimated 10,000 new jobs in the state while relieving economic pressure on its employers. But why would a governor want to do that?
Walker seized the greatest economic crisis in the last half-century to put the blame on public workers (who obviously need to be held accountable for the way they wantonly bundled trillions in bad mortgages, sold them to suckers, and then bet against their toxic investments). He’s cut taxes for those who needed the relief least. He’s defunded Planned Parenthood and offered mushy opinions about immigration reform and foreign policy.
But so has Chris Christie.
If the Republican base cared about creating jobs, Walker and Christie would be at the bottom of their list. But when it comes to demonizing public workers and hurting the working poor, the traits the far right seems to value most, Walker has a slight advantage — and he’s never going to give it up.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr