After the tea party emits its dying gasp and historians get about collecting the better accounts of its wreckage, they should include Ed Kilgore’s Washington Monthly post, “Hurricane Rick,” which surveys the mess Governor Rick Scott and tea party state legislators have created in Florida.
It’s not just Scott’s shameless assault on voting rights that has done so much damage to Floridians’ hopes for a better future. As Kilgore points out:
…Floridians from every corner of the state have suffered alike during the last two years from an unusually virulent strain of Tea Party Government led by a governor as scary as any this side of The Walking Dead, Rick Scott.
In a cover article for Mother Jones, Stephanie Mencimer profiles the enduring damage Scott and company have deliberately inflicted on Florida’s public sector, in areas ranging from health care to transportation to the environment to mosquito control. But one pattern of misgovernment she notes that is especially appalling is the state’s refusal to accept even the most generous and badly needed federal funds on the purely political grounds of not wanting any truck with the evil socialist Obama administration.
Florida’s refusal of high-speed rail funds for an abundantly eligible and long-awaited corridor from Tampa to Orlando was the first and most obvious self-inflicted wound of this nature. And an impending decision (on which Scott is now being cagey after many months of suggesting he would join the other Deep South Republican refuseniks) could lead to rejection of a vastly generous federal match for a Medicaid expansion that Florida with its massive uninsured population could definitely use.
Scott’s disastrous reign will not be easily corrected, As Kilgore notes, quoting Mencimer:
Even if Scott ends up a one-term governor, his legacy won’t easily be reversed. When he rejected the high-speed rail money, the state passed up an opportunity to upgrade its underfunded transit system that it may not soon see again. Florida’s internationally renowned mosquito control system took a half century to build, but only three years to decimate. Likewise with public health, says Nan Rich, who fought the cuts in the state Senate: “The infrastructure is being destroyed and responding to public health crises becomes more difficult,” she says. “I shudder to think if what happened with Hurricane Sandy had happened here.”
We can hope that Florida’s vote for President Obama’s re-election signals that an important lesson has been learned by Florida voters. But Scott’s destructive decisions will likely reverberate long after he is gone. As Kilgore concludes, “…Like one of Florida’s devastating hurricanes: the damage happens very rapidly, while the recovery may never be complete.”