Scott Walker's actions the past few days said volumes about what this career politician is all about.
First, he signs a bill to give a hugely profitable corporation a $3 billion subsidy to locate a factory in Wisconsin, putting Wisconsin's taxpayers on the hook if something should go wrong, which, with Foxconn's spotty record, is a real possibility.
Then he jumps in with both feet to praise the congressional Republicans' latest attempt to repeal Obamacare which, despite Walker's best efforts to sabotage it, has brought health coverage to tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens who otherwise either couldn't afford it or had pre-existing conditions that insurance companies refused to cover.
If ever there was a classic example of why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, this was it in spades.
But no one should be surprised. This has been Walker's modus operandi since he took office in January 2011. It's been a steady attack on working people coupled with generous handouts and tax breaks for corporations. His Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has haphazardly given grants and tax incentives without so much as checking whether the recipients were doing what they said they would. At the same time, he and his fellow legislative Republicans won't lift a finger to even look at increasing the decades-old minimum wage for Wisconsin's working poor.
Walker contends he's a big fan of the latest Obamacare attack — the Graham-Cassidy bill, which thankfully is not a given will pass — because it will allow the states to make their own health coverage decisions. The states know their citizens best, he insists, not Washington bureaucrats.
Pardon me if I shudder at the thought that health coverage for Wisconsin's working poor will depend on the judgment of Wisconsin politicians like Steve Nass, Duey Stroebel, Jesse Kremer and the dozens of other GOP legislators who delight in fomenting political chaos. Or to have ethically challenged legislative leaders like Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald deciding whether to let insurance companies charge what they want for folks with pre-existing conditions, an option that would be allowed under the Graham-Cassidy "reform."
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan last week tried to get Walker to say whether he'd insist on covering pre-existing conditions should Obamacare be repealed. Pocan trotted out a couple of Wisconsinites with serious health problems to explain how the Affordable Care Act has made a difference in their lives. He's still waiting for an answer from Walker.
The truth is Walker can't give an honest answer. Once decision-making is in the hands of the states, there will be 50 health care debates around the country. Some states will work to insure as many people as possible, even if it requires providing more funds themselves to supplement the reduced federal dollars under Graham-Cassidy.
Others will decide that it's too costly and will opt instead to allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for the elderly, disabled and those with pre-existing conditions in order to save their states money. Don't think for a moment that Wisconsin, under its current leadership, won't be one of them.
And that's the bottom-line case why Congress must defeat this latest attempt to kill a program that has brought insurance to millions who never had it before. It's a program in need of some easy fixes, but one far superior to what could lie ahead.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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