A portent, or an omen, is a warning sign that something, especially something momentous or calamitous, is likely to happen. Although it is not the case in America, some human beings actually heed warnings and take steps to head off a calamity before it occurs; particularly when they know who intends on causing the disaster, when and how they will trigger it, and why creating a calamitous event is so crucial to their agenda. No, the coming calamity is not from ISIL, or any other foreign terror group, it is coming from Republicans who are no less guilty of threatening American lives than Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq.
For the past three years, House Republicans have passed a Heritage Foundation budget presented by Ayn Rand devotee Paul Ryan that Senate Republicans were livid did not get passed or voted on in the Senate. Of all the calamitous austerity, tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for the poor and middle class, and program cuts in Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget, none are as valued by Republicans as privatizing Medicare, Medicaid, and soon Social Security.
Republicans are not joking, and it is not conjecture, that given control of both chambers of Congress, they will enact the Path to Prosperity and they will privatize Medicare and block-grant Medicaid (if not eliminate it) as part of their “stop entitlements” at any cost plan. Remember, last month Paul Ryan complained on national television that Republicans cannot possible put a complete stop to entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without a Republican majority in the Senate. As with everything Republicans propose, they claim privatizing programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Veteran’s healthcare will increase the quality of service, save recipients money, and erase the national debt. They also claim that if Democrats would join them, they and the American people would see the blessings inherent in privatization and begin handing over government to corporate control and save America.
Fortunately, Democrats have a living, breathing example of privatizing Medicare, and frankly everything in the Path to Prosperity budget, that has done nothing Republicans promise and everything Democrats warned will come to pass. If he has accomplished nothing else, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has given Democrats and all of America a preview of precisely what a Republican Congress will do to America. Besides driving his state to the brink of insolvency, he revealed that congressional Republicans Medicare privatization scheme is an honest-to-dog calamity waiting to happen because in transferring the administration of Medicaid to private companies, Brownback sacrificed Kansans’ level of care; but the private companies profited.
In January 2013, Brownback promised that transferring the care of 380,000 Medicaid recipients to three private companies would not sacrifice their level of care, and the number of people on Medicaid’s waiting list would be reduced. He also promised the wholesale privatization of Medicaid under KanCare would save $1 billion, and yet a year-and-a-half later Kansas is so starved of revenue bankruptcy is in sight, schools are in crisis, courts face closure, children’s’ homeless shelters close for lack of $100,000, and ratings agencies are downgrading the state’s credit at regular intervals.
What Brownback has not campaigned on, and Democrats across the nation are obviously unaware of, is that the only possible way three private managed-care organizations could realize cost savings is by cutting Medicaid services. For example, a disabled person that required, and received, 24/7 medical care to survive prior to Brownback’s privatization scam is reduced to 40 hours per week of care. After skimming administrative costs, profits, and likely kickbacks (FBI is investigating), the private companies are cutting back caregivers’ visits to weekdays for only eight hours a day, or seven days for five hours each. And those billion dollars in savings Brownback promised? They have not materialized as evidenced by a state economy in the gutter due to a lack of revenue.
One person suffering under the Republican privatization scheme said that caregivers help him eat, administer insulin, help him brush his teeth, bathe and use the toilet. They also operate a device that sucks phlegm from his lungs and turn his body every few hours to prevent sores. The man asked “How can you take out that chunk of money on the backs of the most vulnerable and say with a straight face that you’re going to improve services? It defies common sense.” It is true, it does defy common sense, but so does giving tax cuts to the rich as a ploy to reduce the state’s revenue and say with a straight face the cuts will increase revenue. It is typically Republican and exactly what they promise to do if they gain control of both houses of Congress; that and privatize Medicare, Medicaid and likely Social Security.
A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services shrugged off concerns about the drastic cuts due to Brownback’s privatization scam and said Medicaid recipients facing life-threatening cuts are like welfare people getting a brand new car every year and then suddenly do not get a car. She said, “Their natural response to that is going to be, ‘why are they being so mean to me?’ That’s just human nature. It’s very difficult to take away something once you get it. People get used to it. They think that’s what you need.” Life and death care, or any medical care, is not like getting a brand-new car every year, but Republicans have made it abundantly clear that healthcare, even life-saving healthcare, is a privilege; like getting a new car every year.
It is absolutely stunning that every Democrat running for Congress, governor, or state legislature is not holding up Kansas as a portent of America with Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Everything Republicans propose and promise to enact if they win the Congress has been imposed on Kansas residents and the results are certifiably calamitous. It does not matter if it is Path to Prosperity tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, domestic program cuts, or privatizing Medicare and Medicaid, the state of Kansas is a living portent of what Republicans will wreak on America. Regardless if it is imminent bankruptcy, credit downgrades, pitiful job creation, closing courts, grossly understaffed prisons, schools in crisis, or Kansans without critical medical care, Democrats have a tailor-made model of America under Republican control in Kansas and they are remiss and squandering a golden opportunity by ignoring it.