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Featured Opinion

Winning, debtor’s euphoria and whiskey for my horses

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

The constitutional amendment to allow lawmakers to transfer $437 million from the AFT to the general fund over the next three years has passed.

The state should sigh a collective, “I don’t ever want to do that again.”

During the last weeks leading up to the vote, republican leaders who were reluctantly behind the vote “went dark” that is political speak for, “Let’s not say anything, because this is a mess either way it turns out.’’

On the other side, most Democrats and some Republicans were busy canvassing the state to drum up yes votes, while a few conservatives where holding no vote rallies.

By in large, hospitals, nursing homes, state employees and teachers were out pitching for a yes also.

Not surprisingly almost immediately after the referendum was approved the Governor came out and said it was not his plan and then chided Republicans who had in session voted to put the amendment on the ballot but waged war against in the public. He likes consistency or something.

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Many think that the amendment passed in large part because the people of Alabama trusted the governor. But Bentley, as is his style, didn’t take credit for the political win but rather went about saying whatever was on his mind.

Of course, behind the scenes GOP operatives were making sure that insiders knew that theirs had been the decisive strategy in winning the yes votes and that the Democrats were simple pawns in their big game. This claim of a win, mastermind by the GOP, is suspect at best. For most, it is difficult to believe that Republicans created the win.

The numbers would suggest that Democrats, Moderates and stakeholders prevailed driven by a message from their own.

The real political power of conservatives was witnessed in Madison, Elmore, Limestone and Baldwin counties. In those counties, the Tea Party brought out the no vote.

If anyone is to receive credit for the win, it is those who need no credit other than believing they did the right thing in the face of bad choices laid at their feet by the Republican-controlled legislature.

Of course, as one person put it, “Only Democrats are so nuts as to ensure the GOP another four years in office.”

If the Democrats had stood aside, they could have let Medicaid collapse and then used it as a club in 2014 but they didn’t.

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Many in the GOP would have been happy to see Medicaid fail as they believe that it is an entitlement program that needs to end.

Sadly, that is an argument without many good answers. If we end Medicaid, what happens to the children, unborn, blind, disabled and elderly that depend on it?

It is understandable to question whether government has a role in welfare or what it should be. But it is negligent to not understand the consequences of such questions.

Ideas in politics have consequences and so should rhetoric. It is a discussion I wish had bi-partisan buy-in.

Sincere people on both sides of the divide over the September 18 amendment had their good and bad points. It was a bad plan, but we were not given a plan B to vote on.

There also seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of Medicaid in Alabama.

Alabama operates the leanest and least accessible Medicaid program in the nation.

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We have little fraud or waste. Can Medicaid be improved? Of course. Should it be overhauled? Yes. Will it be? Who knows.

As one might expect the political promise de jour is, “We will pay the money back.”

With what?

Is there a favorable economic wind blowing in from the coast? I mean how many ways can we spend the BP oil money. Oh, no, it is the internet sales tax that is going to save us.

I sometimes think that among other things narcissistic, Alabama politicians suffer from “debtors euphoria.” This is a syndrome brought on by crushing debt. The individual, business, or government is bankrupt but they keep spending believing that out there, somewhere, something is going to happen and money will magically start flowing into their empty bank account.

Politicians keep saying we must live within our means, while handing out grant money and other perks like Mardi Gras beads.

A friend who owns a bar told me, “Never give a bar tab to a drunk to which I add, never give a check to a politician.”

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It seems many of us would not be good bartenders.

It has been said that the character of a nation can be seen in how they treat the elderly and the promise of a nation can be seen in how they treat their young.

If that is true then we as a nation and a state are in deep waters, swimming in an uncertain current.

The people have given the Governor and the Legislature a chance to get it right. Of course this money will last until after the next election, so, it appears no one will really be held accountable. How convenient is that?

Hey, bartender, water for my men and whiskey for my horses, and put it on a tab.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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