When Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the law requiring welfare recipients to pass annual drug tests to collect benefits, he justified the likely unconstitutional law by saying it would save the state money by keeping drug users from using public money to subsidize their drug habits. Drug use, Scott claimed, was higher among welfare recipients than among the rest of the population.
Preliminary results from the state’s first round of testing, however, has seemingly proven both of those claims false. Only 2 percent of welfare recipients failed drug tests, meaning the state must reimburse the cost of the $30 drug tests to the 96 percent of recipients who passed drug tests (two percent did not take the tests). After reimbursements, the state’s savings will be almost negligible, the Tampa Tribune reports:
Cost of the tests averages about $30. Assuming that 1,000 to 1,500 applicants take the test every month, the state will owe about $28,800-$43,200 monthly in reimbursements to those who test drug-free.
That compares with roughly $32,200-$48,200 the state may save on one month’s worth of rejected applicants.
Net savings to the state: $3,400 to $5,000 annually on one month’s worth of rejected applicants. Over 12 months, the money saved on all rejected applicants would add up to $40,800 to $60,000 for a program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year.
While the state will save little, if any, money on the drug testing racket, Scott’s family could stand to gain financially. A former health care executive, Scott founded Solantic Corp., a chain of walk-in health care clinics that provides, among other services, drug tests. Scott maintains that he has no involvement in the company, but he does have $62 million worth of the company’s shares contained in a blind trust under his wife’s name. Though there is no conflict under Florida law unless the company deals with the governor’s office directly, the company, and thus Scott’s investment, could benefit from the increased traffic from drug tests.
Meanwhile, the state’s already-small annual savings could be wiped out entirely by the cost of implementing the program and issuing the reimbursements. And as Derek Newton, the spokesman for the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Tribune, the cost of the program could skyrocket if the state has to defend it in court. The ACLU is still considering a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality, Newton said.
If the ACLU or anyone else were to challenge the law, the lawsuit would likely succeed. As UCLA law professor Adam Winkler wrote after Scott signed the law, “Random drug-testing is what is known as a ‘suspicion-less search,’” and outside of a few limited instances, courts have “generally frowned upon” drug testing that occurs at random and without probable cause. “Indeed, courts have stuck down policies just like the ones put in place by Florida,” Winkler wrote, citing two cases to back up the claim.
As for Scott’s second claim, that drug use is higher among welfare recipients, the test results also show that to be false. While only 2 percent of welfare recipients failed drug tests, a 2008 study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy found that approximately 8 percent of Floridians age 12 and up had used illegal drugs in the last month, and 9.69 percent had smoked marijuana in the last year.
By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, August 24, 2011
The death this past weekend of former Oregon Gov. and U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield, was not just the passing of a good and decent man with a strong sense of Western independence, but a realization that “this ain’t your mother’s Republican Party anymore!”
Of course, it hasn’t been for some time. The era of Senators Hatfield and Mathias and Percy and Baker and Javits and Case and Brooke and Scott and Dirksen and so many others is long gone. The moderates and progressives were drummed out or retired long ago and were replaced with Republican conservatives beginning in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.
Even many of the hard liners who were replaced were still pragmatic conservatives who often worked across the aisle. The Bennetts, Hatches, Bonds, Grahams and others are practical, serious conservatives.
But if you look at the collection of candidates for president, if you look at what just happened with the debt limit insanity on the Hill, if you examine the inner workings of the Republican caucus in the House, you begin to wonder whether Washington is governable and whether the radicalization of the Republican Party is responsible for this meltdown. Has the Republican Party become an extreme Nihilist party?
Let’s look at the current state of politics within the Republican Party.
The upcoming Iowa straw poll and the debate tomorrow night will further push the already extreme candidates more to the extremes . There are so many potential nominees who have not only gone hard right on the social issues but have decided that they must call for abolishing the Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, and even the IRS. They still oppose the TARP program, which kept the world from a depression, and they are proud to reject any form of additional revenue stream by signing inane pledges that handcuff America.
The extreme agenda of cut, cut, cut without regard for the consequences is backed up by statements that even Pell education grants for needy college students are “welfare.” All the sound and fury about the debt did not create a single job or advance economic stability or growth. In fact, the failure of Speaker John Boehner and the Tea Party to agree to efforts by President Obama to reach a $4 trillion grand bargain to right the economic ship was an example of radicals’ my-way-or-the-highway approach.
The American people, overwhelmingly, reject this extremism. They are fed up with the lack of progress and the extremism that has become the modern Republican Party. Their anger is across the board but it is more heavily directed towards what has become of the Republican Party—Tea Party ideologues who lack common sense and have no desire to actually solve problems. In the campaign of 2010 the Tea Party was more or less a Rorschach test, many people saw in it what they wanted. In April 2010, the strong unfavorable was 18 percent; it has risen to around 50 percent.
The scary market volatility, the lack of public confidence in the economy, and most important, the many Americans who are suffering the disasters of unemployment and foreclosure should be front and center for Republicans. Instead, we have a “get Obama” frenzy and a pull to the extreme right that precludes progress.
Speaker Boehner, who seemed close to negotiating the grand bargain with the president, was pulled back into the extremist fold. He even said that he got “98 percent of what I wanted” on the debt deal and declared himself happy with it! If he is happy, there aren’t many Americans who are there with him.
There are few Republican leaders who recognize that what they did with this budget deal led to Americans’ savings and retirements taking a severe hit, a downgrade from Standard & Poor’s that will ripple for years, and a decline in confidence for businesses and consumers.
The old Republican Party wouldn’t have done it; Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have done it; even recent conservatives committed to debt reduction and cutting spending wouldn’t have done it, if they had the courage to stand up to the radicals within the Party.
The time for the Republicans to rediscover their pragmatic, governing side is now. The time to reject the pledges, the ideological straitjackets, the wave of Tea Party hysteria is now. The public is demanding it and the country needs it. (And just a bit of advice from this Democrat: the overreaching and the extremism won’t win you many elections either!)
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, August 10, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott May Personally Benefit From New Law That Hands Medicaid Program Over To Private Companies
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed “a landmark Medicaid overhaul” yesterday that will put “hundreds of thousands of low-income and elderly Floridians into managed-care plans.” The proposal “gives managed care companies more control over the program that’s paid for with federal and state money,” a shift the state GOP claims will “hold down spiraling costs in the $20 billion program.” However, as TP Health editor Igor Volsky pointed out, a five-county pilot program in Florida already revealed that such a plan produces “widespread complaints and little evidence of savings.” Under managed care, states “have to ensure that private payers aren’t looking out for short term profits by denying treatments or reducing reimbursement rates” and — given what occurred during the pilot program — the results “are already less than promising.”
But Scott may have another reason to push a dubious bill into law. As Mother Jones reported, one of the private managed-care companies that stand to gain from the new law is Solantic, “a chain of urgent-care clinics aimed at providing emergency services to walk-in customers. Solantic was founded in 2001 — by none other than Rick Scott:
The Florida governor founded Solantic in 2001, only a few years after he resigned as the CEO of hospital giant Columbia/HCA amid a massive Medicare fraud scandal. In January, according to the Palm Beach Post, he transferred his $62 million stake in Solantic to his wife, Ann Scott, a homemaker involved in various charitable organizations.[...]
“This is a conflict of interest that raises a serious ethical issue,” says Marc Rodwin, a medical ethics professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. “The public should be thinking and worrying about this.”
Scott’s office dismissed the conflict of interest concern as “incorrect and baseless.” However, Scott’s history of fraud with entitlement programs (in that case Medicare) should certainly raise a red flag here. And it is not as if Scott is completely clean when it comes to the mix between professional office and personal interest.
Incidentally, Scott also just signed a bill that will require anyone applying for welfare benefits to pay for a drug test to qualify for benefits. They will only recoup that fee if they pass. One company that provides such drug tests? Solantic.
By: Tanya Somander, Think Progress, June 3, 2011
It’s beginning to look like when Haley Barbour shuffled off into the Mississippi sunset, saying he just couldn’t commit to a 10-year presidential crusade, he left his draft campaign playbook sitting on a garbage can, and Newt Gingrich picked it up. Barbour, you’ll recall, was trying out a new approach to race in the Obama era: Jim Crow wasn’t “that bad,” the white-supremacist White Citizens Councils kept down the KKK, and nobody could make him denounce an effort by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to dedicate a license plate to KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, either. “I don’t go around denouncing people,” declared the man who denounced Democrat Ronnie Musgrove for efforts to remove the Confederate flag from Mississippi’s state flag. I said at the time that Barbour was trying out the notion that post-Obama, people — particularly white people leaning Republican — are ready for an approach that says let’s quit all this whining about racism, it wasn’t that bad, it’s time to get back to the business of cutting taxes for the rich and programs for the poor.
Well, Newt Gingrich seems to have wandered by the garbage can to pick up Barbour’s draft playbook, and it’s all unfolding as planned. He’s getting hit for calling President Obama “the food stamp president”; even David Gregory heard the racial imagery in the term, given the way Republicans have long loved to associate welfare programs with black people. Ronald Reagan famously railed against Cadillac-driving “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks” buying “T-bone steaks” with food stamps; Barbour actually praised Head Start, because some of the kids in it “would be better off sitting up on a piano bench at a whorehouse than where they are now.” I called Gingrich’s remarks “coded racism” yesterday, and today right-wingers were up in arms, pointing out that most food stamp recipients are white. This is absolutely true of most welfare programs, which is why the GOP association of welfare with black people has always seemed, well, racist.
But let me be clear: I might not have paid attention to Gingrich’s “food stamp president” jibe had it not come along with a panorama of images designed to make clear Barack Obama is blackity black black. Praising right-wing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Gingrich said he’ll make the U.S. more like Texas, while Obama only “knows how to get the whole country to resemble Detroit.” In the speech to Georgia Republicans where he tried out the “food stamp president” slur, Gingrich also told the bastion of the old Confederacy that 2012 would be the biggest election since 1860 — you know, when Abraham Lincoln got elected and the South began to secede over slavery, commencing the Civil War. He also suggested the U.S. might need to bring back some kind of voting test, banned under the Voting Rights Act. Last year, of course, Gingrich denounced Obama’s “Kenyan anti-colonialist behavior,” which made him “outside our comprehension” as Americans, spreading the lie that Obama inherited angry African anti-colonialism from his absent African father, though he was raised by his white mother and grandparents. Oh, and he headed the drive to label Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor “racist” when she was nominated in 2009.
So let’s review: Welfare slur? Check. Tie to a troubled, mainly black city? Check. Specious association with African anti-colonialism? Check. Dire reference to Lincoln and the start of the Civil War, while campaigning deep in the heart of Dixie? Check. Suggestion we need a voter test? Check. Oh, and for good measure, calling liberals concerned about racial injustice “racist”? Check. Awesome: They’ve hit pretty much every way the GOP has used to divide Americans by race in the last 200 years!
Great job, Newt. You’ve developed the perfect platform to run a spirited GOP campaign that attracts a cadre of aggrieved white people. You’ll never be president of the United States, but you’ll be the champion of the declining share of the country that still thrills to what we used to call dog-whistle politics: coded varieties of racism only understood by their intended audience. And all the efforts by Gingrich defenders to claim I’m the racist are just funny. One of Andrew Breitbart’s minions is leading the charge, and he lamented Monday morning on Twitter: “Would prefer to hammer Newt today over throwing Ryan under the bus, but @joanwalsh, @davidgregory, & @ebertchicago had to go & do this.” (Roger Ebert was kind enough to Tweet my Sunday Gingrich story.)
I’d advise the Breitbart gang to get back to hammering Gingrich over Paul Ryan’s politically suicidal budget plan; they should focus on the shard of people who want to debate whether Gingrich or Ryan is the leader who can lead their party off a cliff. Anyway, they’ve mistaken me for someone who cares what they have to say. Gingrich is doubling down on racial politics, and I’m going to continue to call it out when I see it.
Oh, and this is one in an occasional series of pieces on folks who will never be president, which began when Sarah Palin unraveled over the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. I didn’t get to Barbour or Mike Huckabee; they realized they would never be president all on their own. It seems silly to write the same piece on Donald Trump; it’s like saying “pigs will never fly.” But I’m sure there will be a few more to come.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, May 16, 2011