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Walker's Treacherous Trampoline to Nowhere

May. 30, 2017
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Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker accidentally came up with a perfect metaphor to describe his cruel proposal to require poor people to perform tricks before they can receive any publicly assisted health care in his state. “We should treat public assistance more like a trampoline than a hammock,” Walker declared.

Walker got that ugly hammock image from his friend House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan portrays desperately poor Americans whose families need government assistance as lolling around on hammocks enjoying lives of leisure. Impoverished families are far more likely to be living in fear and despair.

Walker’s trampoline for the poor is his own invention. No one knows what he really means. He’s surely not suggesting his state’s inferior version of Medicaid bounces poor people up into the Mercedes level of health care available to the wealthy.

Walker actually turned down hundreds of millions of federal dollars to cover more people in his state when Democrats expanded health care to more than 20 million more Americans who couldn’t afford it previously.

But Walker’s perilous trampoline isn’t a bad description of the obstacle courses Republican governors want to set up to dismantle health care state by state since the nationwide effort by Ryan and Donald Trump to destroy insurance coverage for 23 million Americans appears headed for defeat in the U.S. Senate.

Anyone familiar with trampolines knows they can be really dangerous. All they do is create an illusion of a lot of motion that doesn’t really get anyone anywhere. But it can be amusing to watch people performing tricks on them. That fits perfectly with Republicans requiring the poor to dance for their benefits. If Republicans can’t wipe out public assistance entirely, they can at least make the poor jump through hoops based on crude stereotypes of race and class.

Republicans believe the only reason minorities can’t afford health care is they’re either too lazy or too drug addled to work. Their stereotyping of poor whites in dying small towns and rural areas who voted for Trump is insulting in a completely different way. Republicans think those people are so dumb they’ll accept anything.

Contempt for impoverished working-class voters of every race is behind Walker’s mean-spirited proposal to make Wisconsin the first state ever to force low-income residents to submit to drug tests and get a damn job before they can receive publicly assisted health care through Medicaid.


Mutilating Health Care for 69 Million Americans

It’s an ugly right-wing mutilation of one of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s most successful remaining Great Society anti-poverty programs. Medicaid now provides access to health care and nursing homes for more than 69 million low-income, disabled or aging Americans.

Walker doesn’t just want to reverse the public health gains for Wisconsin under Obamacare. He wants to reverse history more than half a century to finally abolish Medicaid itself. No governor has been allowed to do that for 52 years under any president, Republican or Democrat. But then, of course, Trump is not any president. Trump’s and Ryan’s vile version of states rights would allow individual states to abolish federal health care guarantees the same way they abolished democracy and human rights in their states with Jim Crow laws.

Republican hostility toward the poor has always been based upon a lie. Poverty has never been a comfortable life. Poverty is a lot harder work than most affluent folks have ever done. Affluent people also can afford a lot more drugs.

State Sen. Lena Taylor noted about 1,900 women in Wisconsin’s W-2 welfare reform program were drug-tested as of March. Only nine women failed drug tests and were referred for treatment. Similar infinitesimal numbers found in other states show drug testing to qualify for public benefits to be an exorbitant waste of tax dollars.

Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, points out requiring someone to pass a drug test to get access to health care is exactly backwards. Drug abuse is a health problem. “We need to get people into health care programs . . . and then get them the treatment they need,” Peacock said. Instead Walker is trying to make it more difficult for low-income residents in his state who need health care to get any.

In a bizarre twist, last week the Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee voted to set aside $2.3 million over the next two years to try to reduce the number of frequent visits to emergency rooms by people with chronic illnesses.

For the past seven years, the U.S. has had a successful health care program that reduces emergency room visits by providing essential health services to anyone with pre-existing conditions regardless of income. It’s reduced the number of uninsured Americans to the lowest point in history.

All Republicans have to do is stop trying to destroy public health care and join with Democrats to improve it for the American people instead.


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