Who has better policy ideas?

Wisconsin Assembly majority leader Robin Vos claims that Republicans have “better policy ideas for the State of Wisconsin.” He claims this will allow Republicans to continue winning elections for the legislature. But he was only putting a positive spin on being forced to accept Gov. Evers more democratic redistricting maps.

Republicans may continue to win elections despite no longer having as many gerrymandered “safe” districts. But they will not win because they have “better policy ideas.” If they win it will be because they are better at manipulating the public using fear, divisiveness, misinformation and huge amounts of dirty money for attack ads.

Anyone who thinks Republicans have “better policy ideas” is either ignorant of the facts or has drunk the partisan propaganda Kool-aid. Historically it is irrefutable that Republican policies, whenever implemented, have hurt most citizens. There are innumerable examples of Republicans supporting big money special interests over what was good for people, public health and safety, better education, a fairer economy, racial and gender equality or the environment. Republicans rarely support policies that are good for ordinary people.

If you think I am being hyperbolic and partisan, consider these recent news items on actions being proposed or implemented by Republicans across our nation.

Medicaid coverage for postpartum care. Wisconsin’s Republican controlled legislature has killed several bipartisan attempts to extend Medicaid coverage for one year after the birth of a child. A bill passed the Senate this session, but the Assembly refused to act on it. Only four states fail to provide one year of postpartum coverage. Wisconsin is one of them.

In 2021 Congress made 12-month postpartum coverage an option for states. In 2023 this option became permanent. This means federal matching funds will be available indefinitely to lengthen Medicaid postpartum coverage from the current 60-days to 12 months.

Despite doctors advocating for this important improvement, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos doesn’t support a Medicaid postpartum expansion. Vos said about this issue, “We give away too much free stuff…When you make a choice to have a child, which I’m glad that people do, it’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to pay for the delivery of that child…”

Apparently “you’re on your own baby” (and mother) is one of Rep. Vos’s “better policy ideas.”

See “Wisconsin’s Medicaid postpartum protection lags most of the country,” Wisconsin Watch, Rachel Hale, February 27th, 2024.

Republican led states refuse federal funding to feed children. A recent Associated Press article says, “Lower-income families with school-age kids can get help from the federal government paying for groceries this summer, unless they live in one of the 14 states that have said no to joining the program this year.” The USDA program provides a $40 per-child monthly grocery benefit when schools are closed for the summer.

The program is expected cost $2.5 billion in 2024 and help feed 21 million children (another 10 million eligible kids live in Republican states that turned down the money). Note that the 2023 federal discretionary budget which authorized this spending was $1.7 trillion dollars (and included $46 billion for the war in Ukraine).

The AP article says “philosophical objections to welfare programs” was the reason this funding was rejected by 14 Republican governors. Republicans have no “philosophical” objections to massive tax breaks for the super wealthy or corporate welfare for profitable giant corporations. But feeding children doesn’t fit into their moral agenda.

See “14 GOP-led states have turned down federal money to feed low-income kids in the summer. Here’s why,” AP, Jonathan Mattise and Geoff Mulvihill, February 15, 2024

The return of child labor. According to The Economic Policy Institute, twenty-eight states have enacted or introduced bills to weaken child labor laws since 2021. In January 2024 alone, eight states were working on bills to roll back child labor protections. Even Minnesota and Wisconsin Republicans have proposed weakening work hour restrictions, work permits and prohibitions on working dangerous jobs.

According to U.S. Department of Labor, violations of child labor laws increased by 283% from 2015 to 2022. During that time the number of minors employed in prohibited hazardous jobs increased 94%.

Taking us back to the 19th century is not my idea of “better policy ideas.”

Freedom only applies to patriarchal males. Republicans frequently pontificate about freedom, but their “freedom” doesn’t apply to women. This is proven by their efforts to limit women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Outlawing abortion in states they control is not enough. Many Republicans want to ban contraceptives, the morning after pill and the abortion pill mifepristone. In four states they are pushing restrictions on travel to prevent women from seeking legal abortions in other states.

Not only are they attempting to restrict travel by their own citizens, but they want other states to cooperate in sanctioning women. A number of states, including Minnesota, have passed laws to protect women and medical providers, prohibit release of medical records and prohibit law enforcement or other state agencies from cooperating with these unconstitutional actions.

Commentator Jim Hightower likens this to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which required Northern anti-slave states to capture and return escaped slaves. He says, “…160 years later, here comes another faction of right-wing zealots trying to revive the slave law concept of extraterritoriality – this time applying it to any and all-American women who dare to make their own reproductive health decisions.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a statement that says states cannot block people from traveling for legal abortions and also cannot seek to achieve the same result by threatening to prosecute anyone who assists that individual in their travel. But federal opinions will not put an end Republican efforts to control women.

None of this has anything to do with promoting life, freedom, or rational public policy. It is about political control. Republicans must create controversy and division to stay in power. Depriving women of their rights fires up the religious zealots that are a major voting block for Republicans.

I’m sure you can think of many more examples of Republican policies that are harmful to people, our pluralistic society, the environment or our democracy. The important question is, what are you going to do? Are you going to get involved? Are you going to talk to your friends and neighbors? Are you going to vote? Are you going to support, or contribute to, candidates with truly “better policy ideas?”