Sunday, January 19, 2014
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion
“Republicans are the ones who tell you government doesn’t work,” political humorist P.J. O’Rourke once said. “Then they get elected and prove it.”
North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos is just the latest example.
This past week, Wos appeared before a legislative oversight committee to explain what’s been going on in her troubled department. Lawmakers wanted to know why, for example, 49,000 children’s Medicaid cards were mailed out to the wrong addresses, and why the state food stamp program was so far behind, with up to 27,000 families caught in backlogs of up to three months.
(Ironically, the computer program that’s supposed to help speed up the processing of applications is called FAST. Apparently, FAST wasn’t being used to mean “speedy.” It was used in the sense of “you don’t eat.”)
Things have gotten so bad that the U.S. Department of Agriculture wrote a letter to Wos calling the food stamp delays “completely unacceptable” and “a failure on the part of North Carolina.”
While Madame Secretary made the required pro-forma apologies for the ever-expanding disaster that is her DHHS, she did come up with one humdinger of an excuse: She blamed “the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” It’s a “huge issue” in North Carolina, Wos told the committee.
Poor thing. I mean, we’ve only had since March of 2010 to get ready. And what, may I ask, in the Affordable Care Act has squat-all to do with food stamps? Further, what in the ACA does Madame Secretary claim is responsible for mailing 49,000 Medicaid cards to the wrong addresses?
I do know one thing, however, and that’s that I’m going to start using the “Obamacare excuse” every chance I get. Like so:
WIFE: Honey, did you roll the trash can up to the curb like I asked?
ME: Sorry, Pookie. I was so bumfuzzled by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act that I just forgot.
JUDGE: Mr. Rhoades, what is your client’s defense to driving with a revoked license and possession of marijuana?
ME: Your Honor, we feel the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is to blame.
JUDGE: Say what?
ME: My client spent so much time trying to sign up for Obamacare that he forgot to renew his license, and it upset him so bad he just needed some kind of mental relief.
JUDGE: Does that also explain why he was riding a motorcycle down Broad Street with no pants on?
ME: No, Your Honor, that was the fault of the administration’s cover-up of what really happened in Benghazi.
I’ll let you know how it works.
Look, folks. Every state in the union has had to implement the ACA. Somehow other directors of Health and Human Services seem to be getting their jobs done without whining that “Obamacare makes everything so haaaaaard.”
You’ll also notice that the states where the ACA is working best are the ones where the government hasn’t been trying to undercut it from the get-go. You want to know why the DHHS is so screwed up? Because the Republicans want it that way.
When you have an administration whose political base is distinguished by its virulent contempt for people who use programs like Medicaid and food stamps, maybe it should come as no surprise when that administration staffs the agencies responsible for carrying out those programs with political hacks like Wos whose main “qualification” has been their skill at political fundraising.
It should come as no surprise when that same hack goes on to pack the agency with inexperienced 20-something former campaign workers suddenly making 80-plus thousand taxpayer dollars a year.
These people don’t give a rat’s hindquarters about helping the poor. They think the poor deserve to suffer — that is, when they condescend to think about them at all. The McCrory administration knows that, among their core voters, there is no political downside at all to making needy people wait for food stamps or screwing up children’s Medicaid. And they see it as even better politically if they can blame their own dismal failures on Obamacare or on the previous state administration (ironic, that).
The USDA letter mentioned above told Wos, “We have grave concern for the low income people of North Carolina who are waiting for assistance.” The problem is, the Republicans just don’t, no matter how much lip service they give to the idea.
There’s an old saying from AA that “the program works if you work the program.” But if you elect people who don’t think programs work, don’t be surprised when they don’t work them, and don’t be surprised when, like Wos, they fail at their jobs.