Wednesday, December 2, 2020

WI GOP's tardy virus 'plan' coddles COVID, pumps up Republican power

So the GOP-led WI State Assembly, still on vacation since mid-April during the killer COVID19 pandemic which has sickened more than 400,000 Wisconsinites and killed more than 3,600 - and is surging again - has finally released a list here of so-called pandemic-fighting measures that differs from Donald Trump throwing rolls of paper towels to hurricane-traumatized Puerto Ricans only in the number of words involved.

And let's be clear: The list - nicely-bulleted here by the RacineJournalTimes - is not a disease-fighting, lead-from-the-front public health plan, in my opinion. 

It's got some of the feel of a flunking freshman's kitchen-sink, many-sentenced and desperate blue book -   

  • Create business grants for the hospitality industry
  • Allow health service providers from other states to practice in Wisconsin.
  • Allow pharmacists to extend prescriptions of up to 30 days "without obtaining an extension of the prescription order from the healthcare professional who wrote the prescription."

- that hangs together if you understand that has everything to do with gaining more partisan power and leverage in the State Capitol and less about sincerely dealing with a virus GOP legislators bailed on more than eight months ago.

Again, from the RacineJournalTimes compilation:

  • Require governor to submit plans to Joint Committee on Finance for spending federal COVID-19 funds, and require committee to approve that spending
  • Call on all executive branch employees excluding UW System employees to return to work in person by Jan. 31
  • Prohibit local health officers from ordering closures and/or capacity restrictions on specific types of business unless restriction "applies to all types of businesses"
  • Reopen state buildings for public access
  • Double the number of local public health staff working on the COVID-19 response via a requirement of the Department of Health Services
  • Offer weekly rapid antigen tests for home use by requiring DHS "to work with private vendors"
  • Requiring the Department of Health Services to get approval from the state's Joint Committee on Finance before the end of 2020 on its "Vaccine Distribution Plan"

The Legislature could have come into session months ago and passed any of their measures if they were serious about stemming the spread of the pandemic and backing up treatment with actual dollars and intent.

And remember when Republican legislators begged the State Supreme Court in May to void Gov. Evers' effective 'Safer-at-Home' order extension because all they wanted (wink, wink) was a seat at the table to work collaboratively with Evers.

As in, C'mon, mom and dad, please don't make us sit at the kids table. We've got grown-up ideas about how to spend some money and save lives and we can't wait to show you our plans!!

But all year the Legislators have been more concerned with some different dollars - the ones they were raising during call time with donors to fund election campaigns and committee war chests.

The GOP legislators' laundry list proves again that they are consumed with grabbing power from Evers and the executive branch, as well as taking away local government and school boards' authorities - a further extension of one-party consolidation which GOP legislators have carrying out in partnership with the enthusiastic assistance of a rightist Stte Supreme Court majority who have all allowed their previous 'principles' of balanced government and local control to expire. 

It's the hypocrisy the right has used to kneecap Evers since he defeated Gov. Walker in November, 2018.

The Wisconsin GOP's long-awaited legislative COVID19 fighting 'plan' is just another grab for executive branch power.

An additional goal of these GOP power brokers is the further demeaning and sidelining of Andrea Palm, Evers' eminently-qualified Secretary-nominee who is managing the Department of Health and Social Services, and whom the GOP-led State Senate has declined to confirm since she was appointed on January 4, 2019.

GOP legislators have repeatedly attacked Palm and called for her firing. 

During a pandemic. 

Where's the rationale there, except as a feel-good partisan power move? 

Remember then-GOP State Sen. Tom Tiffany - since promoted to the US Congress - even said Palm had no business being health secretary because she wasn't from Wisconsin - a blatant irrelevancy and double-standard because no such objection was raised when Walker appointed the promptly-confirmed and-DC-based Obamacare opponent Dennis Smith to the position Palm now holds.

Let's just say Palm has run a steadier ship in far more turbulent waters than did Smith, but is being treated shabbily with intent by public officials who have sworn oaths to protect the people.

But back to the notion that we'd be in better hands if we turned the administration of COVID19 prevention measures over to the same GOP legislators who ran in April for the hills so they could run for office when the pandemic was been killing people stateside, including many of their own constituents.

* You've seen outgoing GOP State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald defend masking avoidance as an OK personal choice (translation: we're not all in this together), campaign without wearing one and opine that things were "going well" with voluntary masking-wearing even as COVID19 was running wild.

And has gotten more deadly since.

Wisconsin's COVID19 positive case count now exceeds 409,000.

* And let's not forget Racine's GOP State Senator Van Wanggaard.

He said several weeks and tens of thousands of COVID19 cases ago that he wouldn't support a statewide masking ban like the one which the State Supreme Court could soon overturn even if the cases multiplied ten-fold (see video).

For the record: Wanggard made his 'at-your-expense' remark on October 3rd, when the COVID19 positive case tally was 141,830.

At current rates and a count now over 400,000, that total will triple its October 3rd number within a week to ten days, data show.

Be careful what you wish for, Senator.

And since we're speaking about lists, I included Van Wanggaard's morbid math in a Top Ten compilation of the worst things Wisconsin Republicans and their allies have said and done to align themselves with Trump's self-serving COVID19 minimizing that also kept Wisconsin among the hottest of disease hotspots during the pandemic:

* And let's not forget GOP State Senator and big thinker Van Wanggaard, (Racine). He's the one who said on October 8th that COVID-19 cases could increase by a factor of ten and he would still fight any statewide masking order.

The NY Times chart showed 3,237 new cases on October 8th - which is a big number on what should be called Van Wanggaard Covidometer Day - but, alas (?) is less than half of Saturday's 7,494.

By the way, if ten is the number Republicans want to stick with, there have been more than ten times the COVID19 deaths - from 353 to - 3,628 - that have taken place since WI GOP legislative leaders went to the State Supreme Court in May and successfully convinced the friendly rightist majority there to throw out the Evers' 'Safer-at-Home order.

* In fact, the same Wisconsin GOP Assembly leadership that finally cobbled together its COVID19 mish-mash couldn't even protect its own staffers from a COVID outbreak in their suite of offices apparently traced to reckless behaviors. 

And then wouldn't talk about it.

Wisconsin Republicans have been facing an outbreak among lawmakers and aides. But they don't want to talk about it.

Wisconsin Republican lawmakers and top GOP aides have been facing a coronavirus outbreak in recent weeks following a series of in-person events, including a retirement party for a longtime Capitol staffer, a dozen sources told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel....  

Those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak include Jenny Toftness, chief of staff for Speaker Robin Vos, who got sick after attending the retirement party in September.

You know who also likes a cap on information and a no-transparency policy?


Because what you don't know about a pandemic keeps it rolling.

Seriously - do you want these one-dimensional, power-attuned and empathy-deficient ideologues taking charge of things like pandemic management and even vaccine distribution policy? 

I wouldn't trust any of them to drive a vaccine supply truck or help unload it.

Why? Because we have experienced and responsible people for all these tasks which need coordination for success - including doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, warehouse managers and delivery workers who have been trained and know what they're doing.

The best thing this current class of absentee and self-absorbed legislators could do to fight COVID19 now is quickly and rationally approve public funding and uncluttered non-partisan procedures that can stop the disease and the killing.

We elected a Governor. Let him govern.

We have experts in administration. Let them do the work for which they've been trained. 

Anything less than that only fuels COVID19's appetite, and we've had far too much of that.

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