People all over America should watch the special session of the Texas Legislature, just now beginning, if they want to see what Republicans are really up to.
Among other things, they're out to kill Medicare and Medicaid.
The regular session was stymied at the last minute when Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth filibustered a school finance bill until the clock ran out. Republicans, angry about it, are out to teach the Democrats a lesson.
They'll have a good chance to do just that during the special session, which operates under looser rules more favorable to the Republican majorities in both chambers. They were quick to warn Democrats, in fact, that they intended to gather up a lot of the bills they hadn't been able to get through the Senate, where their majority is slimmer, during the regular session and force them down the Democrats' throats in the special session.
This will be a great opportunity for the GOP to teach the Democrats in the Legislature the lesson they want to teach. We citizens need to have our pencils sharp and our notebooks open so we'll be sure to see what that lesson means for us.
Robert Garrett of The Dallas Morning News Austin bureau reported yesterday that a good deal of the focus will be on health care. One of the measures the GOP wants to punish Democrats with is the "interstate compact bill," to allow states to refuse to accept federal health-care dollars above a certain cap and then spend what they do get from Washington without any federal oversight.
In a recent column in The New York Times, Paul Krugman made the point that programs under this kind of rubric will quickly become something very different and very reduced from what people have come to think of as Medicare. He was writing about medical vouchers, but this point applies to the interstate compact idea as well:
"The new program might still be called Medicare. Hey, we could replace government coverage of major expenses with an allowance of two free aspirins a day, and still call it 'Medicare.' But it wouldn't be the same program."
He said the medical voucher proposal points in only one direction: down.
"If the cost estimates of the Congressional Budget Office are at all right, the inadequate size of the vouchers -- which by 2030 would cover only about a third of seniors' health costs -- would leave many if not most older Americans unable to afford essential care."
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In his story in The News, Garrett quotes Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, making essentially the same point about the interstate compact bill:
"The proposal is to turn over all the federal health care funds to us and have us exempt from any and all rules. We tend to be at the federal floor, and if there is no federal floor, legitimate questions can be raised about where Texas would be."
What questions? We'll be in the toilet. C'mon. You think Governor Rick Perry's going to make things better?
Like I say, if all those Tea Party people and Obama-haters want to get a cold-splash sobering look at the GOP's real agenda, they need to keep their eyes on Austin. We will see it laid out there in fairly bald fashion in the weeks ahead. The Texas GOP is about to unzip its skin and reveal its true inner nature as one big death panel.