Crazy, Stupid, Love

02.26.14

Texas: Where Crazy Gets Elected

One of America’s largest states has the highest percentage of uninsured citizens in the country—yet its bullheaded leaders still won’t get on board with Obamacare or the president himself. What’s more, it seems the Texan population are A-OK with that.

So what happens in Texas when the Republican gubernatorial candidate invites Ted Nugent to the state to campaign for him not long after the Motor City Motormouth has called the President of the United States a “subhuman mongrel,” not to mention a “Communist” and a “gangster”? Would you believe, as Maxwell Smart used to say, that the candidate increases his lead? Well that’s what has happened. There’s crazy, and then there’s Texas crazy.

In a poll that came out Monday, conducted as the Nugent controversy was brewing, Republican Greg Abbott leads Democrat Wendy Davis by 11 points, which Politico notes is up from six points in a poll last year.  Now there are surely other reasons for this little surgette, but it certainly shows that Abbott’s decision to keep company with Nugent did him no harm at all in the state.

You think that’s bad, get a load of this, from the same poll. The candidate leading the Democratic field for the right to seek John Cornyn’s Senate seat is a woman named Kesha Rogers. Two of her top ideas? Impeach Barack Obama and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Yes, you read it right. She’s the leading Democrat. She’s also a La Rouchie, a fact that far from hiding she seems intent to rub in the other candidates’ faces: I can ramble on about crazy worldwide banking conspiracies all I want, she seems to be saying, but as long as I want to impeach Obama and repeal Obamacare, you can’t touch me! There’s crazy, and there’s Texas crazy.

This would all be merely amusing, but there’s another side to Texas crazy. Let’s get serious now for a few paragraphs.

If you read me often enough, you know that one of my themes is that the Democrats, with enough money, creativity, and guts, ought to be able to turn Obamacare into a positive. Millions of people across the country, especially in the states that opted in and accepted the Medicaid money, have insurance now and the peace of mind about themselves and their children that comes with it. Besides which, have you noticed that all the Republican hoo-ha about these alleged horror stories never holds up on examination? Paul Krugman wrote a terrific column on this topic Monday. Literally every high-profile Obamacare-nightmare story retailed by one of these yoyos turns out, once reporters start poking around, not to be at all as advertised. So we have a party that loathes the ACA and its effects and many millions of dollars to go find its victims, and so far it hasn’t really turned up one.

Now—back to Texas. Two recent briefing papers from academics affiliated with the excellent Scholars’ Strategy Network shed considerable light on what Obamacare could be doing for Texas, if only its politicians would permit it.

Texas—hold on to your ten-gallon hat, because this is a shocker—leads the country in the percentage of its people who are uninsured; a gaudy 24.6 percent. Nearly 37 percent of Hispanics are without coverage, as are 22 percent of African Americans, and 23 percent of women. That’s a small army of people who would benefit from the state having accepted the federal Medicaid money and set up an exchange. But Texas’s leaders from Rick Perry on down are having none of it.

In one paper, Jessica Sharac, Peter Shin, and Sara Rosenbaum of George Washington University cite a recent study noting that “if Texas had agreed to expand Medicaid, more than two million uninsured people would likely have gained health insurance.” In another, Ling Zhu and Markie McBrayer of the University of Houston compare how poor people are faring so far in Texas and California, the latter of course being among the states that have accepted the Medicaid expansion. They write: “More than 2.2 million Californians were added to that state’s expanded Medicaid program by the end of January, compared to just over 80,000 Texans who signed up after realizing they were already eligible for the existing state Medicaid program.”

Texas—hold on to your ten-gallon hat, because this is a shocker—leads the country in the percentage of its people who are uninsured

Together, the papers (they’re very short, you should go read them) paint the picture you’d expect. Our two largest states, one working to insure its people and the other doing everything in its power to prevent that. And remember—Texas could be doing this at very minimal cost. Washington is paying full freight on the expansion until 2016, and then a slightly declining share, but still, 90 percent every year after 2019. It’s almost free. And Texas ain’t playin’. Indeed Perry turned down (cue Dr. Evil) nine billion dollars

So now let’s circle back to the governor’s race. Of course, Abbott opened his campaign last fall pounding Davis on Obamacare, thundering that she’d open the door to this iniquity. Davis has been talking a lot about Ted Nugent, but she’s had rather little to say on the subject of Perry refusing, and Abbott vowing to continue to refuse, $9 billion.

Would all those uninsured Latinos and blacks and women be energized to come out and vote for the candidate who dared to make a big issue of this? I admit it’s hard to say. But Davis is a long shot anyway. Nothing against her—Jesus himself could come back and run as a Democrat in that state, and rather than pull that Democratic lever for Him, most Texans would just wonder when the Redeemer went socialist on them (answer: he always was!).

Of course it would be risky. Of course she’d drop in the polls for a while. But she’d still have nearly eight months to explain to people that $9 billion is real money, that all this is happening anyway whether Texas Republicans like it or not, and since it is happening well by cracky she’s not going to leave millions of Texans not getting what their counterparts in other states are getting. As it is, those people have no one really fighting for them. That’s Texas crazy, too.