In 2012, when the right-leaning Supreme Court ruled that individual states could opt out of the part of of the Affordable Care Act that required states to expand Medicaid, Texas jumped at the opportunity. A year later Governor Rick Perry bragged to Tea Party groups across the nation that he beat President Obama’s attempt to extend healthcare to his state’s working poor. That same year Attorney General, now Governor, Greg Abbott boasted proudly to the press that he had sued the Obama Administration 24 times in less than four years. Between the two of them, they wasted billions of dollars and ensured that the most vulnerable Texans would remain without healthcare, all while claiming they didn’t believe in reckless spending. Two years later, Texas is expected to ask for billions of dollars in federal disaster aid after floods have ravaged the state.
When Rick Perry opted out of Medicaid expansion, he cost his state $100 billion dollars in federal aid for healthcare over ten years. This money would have paid for healthcare for more than a million struggling families in the state where more than a quarter of its population is uninsured. He was proud that he was governing the state with the largest number of uninsured people.
Perry spoke at Tea Party rallies and gleefully informed them that “Texas will not be held hostage by the Obama administration’s attempt to force us into this fool’s errand of adding more than a million Texans to a broken system.” He essentially forced more than a million Texans to live in fear; the fear that they were just one illness away from financial devastation.
Governor Greg Abbott was just as proud as Perry that he sued the Obama Administration 24 times while he was Texas’ Attorney General. He once told the Associated Press,”I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.” His 24 lawsuits against the federal government cost taxpayers in his state more than 2 million dollars between 2009 and 2012.
Both Abbott and Perry claim that they are fiscal conservatives; they don’t believe in unnecessary spending. The reality is, Republican policies have absolutely nothing to do saving money and everything to do with punishing the poor.
“According to the Pew Research Center, more than three-quarters of conservatives believe that the poor “have it easy” thanks to government benefits; only 1 in 7 believe that the poor “have hard lives.” And this attitude translates into policy. What we learn from the refusal of Republican-controlled states to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would foot the bill, is that punishing the poor has become a goal in itself, one worth pursuing even if it hurts rather than helps state budgets.”
If Perry and Abbott cared about saving money, then they would have expanded Medicaid. By refusing to expand the program by suing the federal government, they wasted billions of dollars and forced hospitals eat more than $5 billion dollars every year. If they cared about taxpayers and fiscal responsibility, expanding Medicaid would have been a no brainer; that’s how you know it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with punishing the poor.
The same guy who bragged about suing Obama twenty-four times, is expected to ask the federal government for billions of dollars in disaster relief aid. Abbott hasn’t expanded Medicaid during his time as governor; he is doing exactly what his predecessor did and condemning the working poor to a desperate paycheck to paycheck life which could be upended at any moment by an unexpected illness. He hasn’t expanded the healthcare program that would create over 300,000 jobs and add $3 billion in to the Texas economy over ten years. He hasn’t expanded the program and accepted the $100 billion dollars in healthcare aid to help people keep themselves and their families healthy; but he will expect disaster aid. The politicians in Texas have proven that they don’t care about Texans, but President Obama will make sure they get the disaster relief they need because he cares more about people than partisan politics.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.