Scott Walker: How One Corporate Crony Governor Will Destroy His State
While Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s plan to destroy the public employee unions in his state has garnered much national attention in the last week, his assault on unions is really just one part of his three-point plan to radically alter Wisconsin. Tim Fernholz of the National Journal looks deeper into the Governor’s budget proposal,
The bill includes a provision that would allow the state to sell or contract out the operation of heating and cooling power plants without a bidding process and without consulting the state’s independent utility regulator. Democratic legislators worried aloud that the process would attract abuse, and Jon Peacock, director of the Wisconsin Budget Project, called the no-bid approach a “red flag.”
The bill also employs “emergency” powers that would allow the governor’s appointed health secretary to redefine the foundations of the state’s Medicaid program, Badgercare, ranging from eligibility to premiums, with only passive legislative review. The attorney in the legislature’s nonpartisan reference bureau who prepared the bill warned that a court could invalidate the statute for violating separation of powers doctrine.
The legislation, the lawyer wrote in a “drafter’s note” about the bill, would allow the state Department of Health Services to “change any Medical Assistance law, for any reason, at any time, and potentially without notice or public hearing… in addition to eliminating notice and publication requirements, [the changes] would leave the emergency rules in effect without any requirement to make permanent rules and without any time limit.”
So Governor Walker hopes to destroy one of the only countervailing forces against corporate cronyism and advocates for public health. And then he’ll start throwing poor people off of Medicaid handing out no-bid contracts to well-connected companies. Like maybe to his friends the Koch brothers? I’m sure it is simply a coincidence that the Koch brothers have just opened a lobbying shop in Madison.
From the CBPP: “[Walker's] bill would strip the legislature of practically all of its authority to set the guidelines for the program (known as BadgerCare), leaving the power to do so almost solely in the governor’s hands.”…
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is currently being run by Heritage Senior Fellow Dennis Smith, who has been making his right-wing think tanker bones arguing that states should drop out of Medicaid, the long-time dream of the extreme right. It is telling that “Smith wouldn’t discuss Medicaid provisions in the upcoming budget bill” even though it’s all he’s been writing about for years.
Specifically, one of the last things he wrote had this talking point: “Congress and the Administration have enacted a sweeping overhaul of one-sixth of the American economy, dramatically expanding the scope of federal power….When governors and state legislators realize that they have been reduced to mere agents of and tax collectors for the federal government, bipartisan opposition from the states will be inevitable.”
This power grab by the Governor will be the beachhead for slashing medicaid rolls to record lows and planning the conservative opposition against health care reform more broadly.
The advantage of privatization in cases like the Chicago parking meters is that it removes the utility from political meddling — in that case, from local aldermen who would always agitate for parking rates well below the optimal level. (Relatedly, if you haven’t read it yet, go read Ed Glaeser’s Atlantic essay on the massive economic cost of urban zoning regulations.)
But in the case of Wisconsin-owned energy plants, such considerations don’t come into play. There’s no reason to believe that the private sector will run those plants in a way that is better for the public, and every reason to believe that they will run the plants in a way that is worse (ie, more expensive) for the public. If the state wants to cut such a deal in return for a one-time check, that check had better be enormous. And there’s absolutely no reason to believe that it will be.
Of course it won’t be. Scott Walker isn’t working in the public interest at all. His interest lies solely in advancing his rigid Gilded-age ideology and in funneling public monies and public property to his corporate benefactors. Ed from Gin and Tacos closes the circle on the Koch brothers influence here,
In case it isn’t clear where the naked cronyism comes in, remember which large, politically active private interest loves buying up power plants and already has considerable interests in Wisconsin. Then consider their demonstrated eagerness to help Mr. Walker get elected and bus in carpetbaggers to have a sad little pro-Mubarak style “rally” in his honor. There are dots to be connected here, but doing so might not be in the public interest.
We have a Tea Party Governor, bought and paid for by the Koch brothers, with Heritage Foundation fellows in the cabinet. Here we have it on full display for the entire country to see, the conservative id – crush workers, attack the poor and let the corporations plunder the public treasury. All under the fig leaf of a self-inflicted “budget crisis.”
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