For an over-the-top response to the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare, it’s hard to beat Michael Savage. The conservative radio host suggested that the epilepsy medicine Chief Justice John Roberts takes might have impaired thinking and, ipso oopso, led to his deciding vote upholding the Affordable Care Act.
But Savage’s cruel diagnosis is nothing compared to what some southern Republican governors are saying.
As a group, conservative Southern governors act so dumb they should be a protected class. But there is a method to their very angry madness. Rick Perry of Texas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, in particular, are auditioning for the role of George Wallace in a revival of “Katie, Bar the Schoolhouse Door,” except this time these provincial hustlers are looking to keep the working poor from seeing doctors. Having flopped in their debuts on the national stage, Jindal and Perry are hoping that inviting a confrontation with Obama will give them a second chance as states’ rights stars.
When it comes to health care, Jindal knows better. He oversaw 40 percent of Louisiana’s budget as the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals before serving as George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services. Jindal knows states depend on federal Medicaid matching funds to pay for health care.
But then Jindal said this: “We’re not implementing ObamaCare,” which he said could lead to “taxes on people who refuse to eat tofu or refuse to drive a Chevy Volt.” Apparently he found big-boy pants at Baby Gap that fit.
It’s dandy Jindal opposes Obamacare, but he can’t block it. Under the Affordable Care Act, states can set up their own exchanges to give small businesses volume discounts.
If Louisiana chooses not to, then unelected federal bureaucrats will commit the unpardonable offense of offering small businesses in Louisiana a way to get more affordable insurance plans, and they won’t even say “please.”
Perry called the Obamacare ruling “a shocking disappointment to freedom-loving Americans,” adding: “Freedom was frontally attacked by passage of this monstrosity.” Sadly, that is a direct quote.
Gov. Perry’s office said Texas wouldn’t set up an exchange, even though Perry has already taken a $1 million federal grant to begin implementing it. He also promised to prevent the expansion of Medicaid to cover the 6 million uninsured Texans, which is apparently how monstrosities attack you frontally.
The problem isn’t the cost. All Obamacare requires from Texas is $6 billion. In return, the state would receive $119 billion. That’s the kind of return Perry only usually sees when he flips land with one of his big campaign contributors, but he’s turning this down. You give us magic beans, Obama says, and we’ll give you a magical hen, a singing harp, and $119 billion, but all Perry hears is “Fee fi fo fum.” It’s Perry’s apparent inability to do this math in his head that leads people to conclude that he probably needed a tutor to get a “C” in gym.
But like Jindal, Perry’s not a stupid politician (He just plays one on televised debates). Perry has the animal cunning to know when the anti-Obama spotlight will make him look best to his conservative base. In a statement issued by his office, Perry said, “Texans have had enough of this administration’s bully tactics.”
That’s probably true. Rick Perry has only ever been interested in his own administration’s bully tactics. He funded a corporate welfare slush fund by kicking 151,000 kids of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He prepared for his presidential run by cutting off Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood, resulting in 130,000 Texas women losing access to health care. The fight over children’s health care will look like-I apologize in advance for this-child’s play compared to conservative grandstanding over expanding Medicaid to cover the working poor.
Jindal, Perry and the coterie of George Wallace-wannabes are staking their post-Romney ambitions on refusing, however absurdly, to implement Obamacare. Their showboating will inevitably segregate health care in America between states where people can afford quality health care and those led by hysterical nimrods standing in their way. Defending liberty by preventing your citizens from seeing a nurse might be good local politics at first, but it’s a lousy long-term strategy. Because sooner or later, everyone gets sick.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen Members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @jasstanford.
This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.