Flim Flam Politics and Legislative Poseurs

Here we are in July, and the machinery of Flim Flam Politics chugs right along. Coronavirus cases are spinning out of control in states that have refused to take the outbreak seriously enough, and teachers are literally updating their wills and increasing their life insurance because they are being told the same thing other workers were told earlier in the pandemic: your life is not worth as much as governmental desire to pretend that everything is fine and normal.

Things are not fine. They are not normal. And politicians have utterly failed America, forcing people to privatize and individualize their personal risk when government, instead, could have been an answer to the problem. The White House is threatening schools who exercise caution, so “plans” for opening classrooms next month are emerging. In some places, masks are optional in those plans, and desks will be placed only three feet apart, even though the CDC recommends at least six and growing scientific consensus identifies the Coronavirus as airborne.

Schools are close contact, long duration exposure locales. Kids, no matter how hard they try, will not be able to keep from accidentally wiping their noses, or their eyes, or giving a beloved teacher or friend a hug. Schools are the perfect place for the virus to spread, but Flim Flam Politicians want them open anyway because they know most parents can’t afford to keep their kids at home because they have to work. They want them open to they can pretend the economy is normal, when in fact people are suffering.

Because, as always, the economy is rigged against regular people. Our economic precarity is, as always, being used against us to force us to “make choices” when we have no choice. Bear in mind, teachers did an amazing job toggling on a dime to online delivery in March. They worked long hours. They did the best they could. And the reward, now, is an utter lack of support from legislators. The reward is that they get to worry about getting sick at work, and they get to worry about their students getting sick too. All so politicians can pretend the economy is back to normal. With schools closed, politicians would actually have to act to help people. They want them open so they don’t have to help.

In Harrisburg, Flim Flammery has been consistently clear with the majority Caucus of Cruelty, who are now driving the legislature over a cliff they pretend is a noble defense of liberty. You might not have heard, but the PA Senate steamrolled through a Constitutional Amendment that limits a Governor’s emergency declarations to a maximum of 30 days without legislative approval. This week the House majority took this on, steamrolling even more on Monday by cutting of all debate on — let me say this again — a Constitutional Amendment, and whittling the emergency declaration maximum to 21 days. At the same time, the PA Legislature is acting both to defend the horrific gerrymandering that unfairly splits the legislative districts of the Commonwealth for election and is developing a plan to gerrymander voting for state Supreme Court justices in the future. Seriously. They’re mad that the Supreme Court upholds laws they don’t like and can’t change legislatively, so they want to stack the court with partisans.

A few points on the Constitutional Amendment, and on how the Flim Flam Politicians are doing everything as a cold calculation for their own interests:

  1. The Caucus of Cruelty began signaling their desire to end the Governor’s emergency declaration as soon as it began. So with the language of their amendment, they could have, and almost assuredly would have, ended the emergency declaration on March 27. Which means we’d be dealing with what Florida is facing right now, runaway case loads and overwhelmed hospitals, and an “open” economy that is going to crash because of mass illness. The Caucus of Cruelty would have claimed they were doing this to “defend” the economy, when in fact they would be doing it solely to serve the ideological fancies of a rigged, unfair economy that always harms workers to benefit the wealthy. Right now, that harm is even more physical than usual, as it comes with the risk of a difficult illness, possibly lifelong health impacts if you recover, and no recovery at all for some. This situation, I should note, is inflicted by politicians who also don’t think you deserve the right to healthcare. But you aren’t a massive, deep-pocketed special interest industry, are you? Who donates large sums of money to keep their pet politicians in line, are you?
  2. Procedurally, their proposal yokes two completely different and totally unrelated issues into a single Amendment vote. They combined the curtailing of the emergency declaration with a completely unrelated (but very, very important) codification of racial and gender equity in the state Constitution. That’s strange, and normally not allowed in regular PA legislation. Because, well, it makes no sense to combine these in one Amendment proposal, and doing so forces legislators into an awkward political position…which is why the Caucus of Cruelty did it. If you vote against the amendment, they can claim you voted against equity, you monster! But if you vote for it, you’re voting for a ridiculous political stunt. Which is what they want. It’s a tactical move, set up as a political win-win. They either get the votes they want, or they get to use the votes they don’t want as misleading attack material for the coming election.
  3. The whole Amendment push is another absolute, total, ugly, partisan, wasteful, stupid, shameful, cynical, insulting political stunt. In our Commonwealth, Constitutional Amendments have to pass in two separate Legislative Sessions, then they have to be approved by voter referendum as an election ballot item. That means that if it passes now, it has to pass again in the 2021-2022 Legislative Session (when, y’know, I’m in the House and Brad Roae is enjoying retirement). Then move on as a referendum. So the amendment itself would have no effect on the current emergency declaration that has, bear with me here, saved a lot of lives and is consistent with state law. It’s about power and re-election. It’s about partisan division.

So why is the Caucus of Cruelty doing this? And now?

Because political stunts are about politics, not governance. The Caucus of Cruelty is committing an act of theater, showing they are “working” to “do” something, even when they are doing nothing to help people weather the continued public health and economic crisis of Coronavirus. Then, this November, they can say look what we did! When, in fact, they have spent the entire pandemic thus far doing nothing but whine about tyranny and toss up bill after bill that would put workers at risk and — let me say this again — would have put Pennsylvania in the position Texans and Floridians are currently suffering.

So, if the amendment passes this session (since it only needs a simple majority, the partisan divide of the legislature indicates it probably will), they can also campaign this fall by saying it’s crucial to re-elect members of their Caucus of Cruelty. Look out for those dang Democrats and moderate, reasonable Republicans, they’ll crow. Because our precious Amendment hangs in the balance! Tyranny! Freedom! You might know we have been useless and harmful, but you have to elect us again so we can pass this Amendment! Then we can continue to be useless and harmful!

Politics can hardly get more cynical than this.

We cannot forget, the Legislature could have made different choices. It could have tried to actually work with the Governor instead of use the whole health crisis as a political charade. It could have worked to figure out the one thing that would have actually helped: find ways to pay people and businesses to stay home, isolate, and actually crush the virus. It could have worked to pass universal, single-payer healthcare that would give everyone access to doctors and hospitals without risk of bankruptcy and, the kicker, be cheaper than our current Byzantine system.

These are not vague ideas that might have worked. Single-payer healthcare works well in almost every other prosperous nation (including Canada, by the way: don’t believe people who claim healthcare sucks there. Ask a Canadian). And giving people the cash cushion to stay home did work, elsewhere, to get through the first wave of the virus. In New Zealand. In Europe. In Canada. Places where government acted decisively and got their populations through the first wave, so they actually can be talking in those countries about safely opening schools, for example, without lying through their teeth and forcing openings even though it puts lives, literally, at risk.

The blunt question: which teachers are you okay with having die so schools can open? Which kids? Because that’s the gamble many politicians are asking teachers and students to accept. They just hide it behind obfuscating language and bad data interpretation.

Let me go ahead and link to something I wrote back in April, which still holds true. And, though it is perhaps slightly gauche, let me quote myself too:

It’s part of a long game that is absolutely, 100% not in your favor and cares not one whit about safety and, instead, is part of a steady, coordinated attack on the well-being of regular folks to benefit (drumroll) super-duper rich people. Not you. And any politician pushing it is, well, not in your corner. Whether through ignorance or cruelty, they abet a system that counts your body and your mind as expendable parts of a machine designed to net massive profits for…let me say this again…not. you. 

From “Yeah, They’re Against You.” April 22, 2020.

Again and again, in Harrisburg and Washington, we’re seeing that pattern hold. Flim Flam Politics put the interests of profits (not ours) before the responsibility of government. Instead of helping us through the public health crisis, they sow doubt about masks, and about the seriousness of the virus itself, then turn to blame individuals for the raging outbreaks that were the inevitable uptick in infections and hospitalizations.

Why do they do it? Do I need to ask?

Because they think we’re all stupid enough to believe their charlatan sideshow antics. They disdain voters to such a degree that they cannot understand how tossing people into the maelstrom of infectious risk might be bad governance. They are calculating how to pretend they’re taking action, just so they’ll have campaign trail material. And they’re willing to put workers, teachers, children into harm’s way to do it.

Worst of all, they believe their own partisan toxicity. And they’re trying to get you to believe in it too. We don’t have to. We can’t. We have far too much to lose. We have lost too much and too many already.

2 thoughts on “Flim Flam Politics and Legislative Poseurs”

  1. Thank you Matt. May I have your permission to forward this to a Republican elementary school teacher that I worked with who is a Democrat and just doesn’t know it and who absolutely can’t stand Brad Roae?

    I feel your pain. Gloria


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