Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ne-v-v-v-v-er Mind!

or, Barbour channels Gilda Radner

Holy cow! Now that the latest "special" session closed almost as fast as it opened, and the reality of everything has settled in, I gotta wonder, "What was the Governor thinking?" This isn't the first time that little question has scrolled thru my brain lately (try a couple of weeks ago, when he turned loose a cold-blooded killer out of the clear blue sky), but that's another really sore spot, and I don't have enough pain resistance to pick at both of them in one day.

Even the mainstream Mississippi media (or MMM), not the swiftest or sharpest tack pricking the Guv's ego, has started paying attention. The previously Barbour-enamored Clarion Ledger noticed the resemblance to one of the late Radner's most famous characters, Emily Litella, who would wax indignant, becoming increasingly overwrought at some misperceived indignity. When it was explained to her that it was nothing all along, just a misunderstanding, she would look disgusted, sigh and say "Nevvvver mind!" Understand that I'm not implying that Gov. Barbour has misunderstood anything, because whatever complaints one lays at his door, stupidity is not among them.

Lately, though, one wonders if his attention has slipped. Not that he has ever seemed, to me, to care about anything but money-making and power, but he usually covers it a lot better.

I'm personally in a state of shock over this latest Medicaid fiasco. After $607,872 in taxpayer's money, all that wasted time for elected legislators, and nearly 8 months in which the disabled, the poor and the elderly (including many who are all three), as well as their loved ones, have been worried out of their minds about the huge cuts that Haley Barbour was threatening to make to Medicaid, and the man basically says, oh, never mind, I don't need to make cuts after all; there was no big emergency, uh, and by the way, those cigarette taxes that I was so opposed to as a solution of the problem I said we had - heck, they're not high enough, after all.

And you people running hospitals, forget that I basically blackmailed you, I've decided to get the money from you some other way. As House Speaker Billy McCoy so colorfully puts it, "We're concerned (the new plan) is just the same mule with a different gear on it, and just as much corn will be plowed up under it as the other one,"

So, to recap, suddenly, there is no big emergency, there was never any need for all those special sessions to keep him from throwing our aged parents out of the nursing homes and onto the streets (forgive me a little hyperbole at this point). Now that push comes to shove, and the Mississippi House of Representatives has proved to be tougher to push around than the Mississippi Senate, the hospitals are threatening to sue and the court hasn't laid down and kissed Barbour's feet while telling him he could usurp the legislative role in Medicaid funding, he's stuck in his own machinations. I don't know whether to refer back to Radner or Remus here (Tar Baby).

To top it off, after this big fight with the legislature over raising tobacco taxes, and all the time and money wasted, as well as all the reasons why he said we shouldn't raise the tobacco tax(what WERE they, anyone remember now?) was nothing, just politics. Suddenly Haley sees the light - tobacco taxes are too low.

I'm about to be really cynical (watching Mississippi politics will do that to you). I'm wondering if there is a connection between Haley rolling over and playing dead on the tobacco tax issue and the possibility that his (supposedly) blind trust is about to become transparent to the rest of us, in the wake of the new legislation just signed in, barring some Ethics Commission surprise (like a rollover of their own, which wouldn't likely be well-received by the public). (Really, how blind can a trust be when it's administered by one of your high school classmates?) Barbour's request to grandfather his blind trust in around the new law has got some stink attached to it, notwithstanding the protestations from some sympathizers that it's a "non-issue".

Charlie Mitchell (of the Vicksburg Post) quotes Barbour as saying "I don't owe those people anything. They don't owe me anything," speaking of the tobacco firms that have been on the client list of his old company, BG&R. Charlie never said he didn't believe Barbour, but all I could see in the white space between the lines was skepticism.

And, by the way, what happened to all that leftover Medicaid money the Feds gave us to shore up Medicaid for the strain of Katrina-related needs? Since the idea of putting it in roads to the new Toyota plant bombed, why can't that money, originally given to the state for Medicaid, be used for . . . get ready . . . Medicaid?

Anybody got any answers (that make sense)? And does anyone think this signals a turn toward common sense (like a willingness to shift some of the tax burden away from food and onto tobacco)? AARP has polled voters, and the poll indicates that voters are ready (but is Haley?)

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