The state of the state speech last week repeatedly brought Republican legislators to their feet to applaud Gov. Scott Walker’s election-time embrace of Democratic legislative ideas.
My Republican colleagues would have cheered just as loudly if Walker had stuck to his long-time agenda of cutting education, or had attacked prescription drug benefits for the elderly. After all, they stood with him as he failed to bring promised job growth, ignored the youth prison scandal and dithered over our crumbling highways.
“Predictable’’ is the word for the ecstatic reaction of GOP lawmakers.
“Shameless’’ is the word for Walker and his campaign-time leftward conversion.
It’s as if he woke to find a state Senate district in western Wisconsin had elected its first Democrat in nearly 20 years.
“What’ll I do?’’ he might have asked himself. “I know! I’ll promise to cut $100 checks to families for each child in Wisconsin!’’
A friend quipped that each check will be a piece of taxpayer-funded campaign literature. A constituent called to suggest we spend the money on roads, not checks. That way, parents can get to jobs without wrecking their cars.
Checks for Children may be a hastily conceived, self-serving, cynical, publicly-funded campaign gambit, but it is not a shameless flip-flop.
Walker’s new fondness for sparsity aid to rural school districts? Now that’s a shameless flip-flop.
The ink is barely dry on his sparsity aid budget veto this fall. Only one thing has changed: public perception of Republican leadership.
The governor has done a shameless 180-degree turn on health care.
Now he supports parts of the Affordable Care Act, a program he persistently tried to kill. Walker declined Medicaid expansion money that is part of the ACA. By the end of 2019, Wisconsin will have lost $1.1 billion that would have provided adequate care to thousands more people.
He pirouetted on SeniorCare, the prescription drug plan for seniors that he tried to vandalize in two state budgets. Suddenly, he wants a federal waiver to make SeniorCare permanent.
The governor has shamelessly flipped on coverage of pre-existing conditions. Now he wants to enshrine the coverage in state law. In May, he was open to a waiver from federal law so insurers could hike premiums for those with pre-existing conditions.
Walker could have adopted Democratic health care plans years ago. He might have saved or lengthened lives, or preserved someone’s health. Wellness and longevity are connected to health care coverage. Before the ACA, the health care system excluded those who couldn’t afford high premiums, those who had pre-existing conditions and those who had reached life-time limits on coverage. Walker embraced that system.
At long last, Walker has discovered problems at the Lincoln Hills juvenile correctional facility. Perhaps the FBI investigation alerted him.
He has embraced a Democratic plan to turn the place into an adult prison and to open regional facilities for youth.
We expect the rosiest possible vision to be trotted out at the state of the state speech, no matter who gives it. The stunning reversals of principles and policy after six years? That’s new.
The changes were inspired by a career office-holder’s personal need to stay in office. I am glad for some of the changes. I worry that they may be temporary. I don’t admire or trust politicians whose convictions change with the polls.