Attack of the Republican governors **UPDATE: Politico’s best spin can’t stop ‘the math’

Republican governors, left to right: Scott Walker (Wis), John Kasich (OH) and Rick Scott (Fla).

The GOP’s gubernatorial vanguard in its war against public sector workers is on the attack, apparently, also gunning for the very idea of the rule of law. Meanwhile, even Politico can’t spin it positive for the GOP.

UPDATE 2: More people are asking the question, whether Scott plans to make a profit on his new drug testing policy. Tick-tock…

UPDATE: Politico’s Alexander Burns does his best to shade it positively for Republicans, but there’s no mistaking the math:

It was supposed to be one of the clearest messages of the 2010 elections: Voters were finally fed up with government spending.

It felt like the usual rules had changed, and that Americans were worried enough about the size of government to support a new era of belt-tightening. They wanted leaders to make the tough choices – and would stick by the ones who did.

First of all, the clearest message from the 2010 elections, and that’s in every single poll, was that Americans were deeply concerned about jobs. The idea that Americans were mostly demanding spending cuts is a fiction created by the beltway media, because, it turns out, that’s what they want to talk about on television. Now back to our regularly scheduled GOP spin-cum-journalism:

Now, a new wave of polling has challenged that consensus, raising serious questions about whether voters really are yearning for a grown-up conversation about the cost of government — or would simply rather keep punting the problem down the road, just like in the past.

Editorialize much, Alexander?

Almost every governor who’s tried to deliver a take-your-medicine message has paid a price. And widespread polling data suggests a chasm between what Americans say they want and the price they’re prepared to pay to get there

Next, Alexander will do his best to insert Democratic bad news in with the across-the-board backlash against the GOP:

In Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich’s approval rating stood at just 30 percent last week, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Earlier in the month — even before Kasich detailed a budget featuring cuts to Medicaid, local governments and more — the University of Cincinnati had that number at 40 percent. Both surveys showed nearly half of voters disapproved of Kasich.

In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy is also underwater in the polls—he clocked a 35-percent approval, 40-percent disapproval rating after unveiling a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts to close a more than $3 billion deficit.

Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – an icon of conservative austerity, whose clashes with big labor and tough-talking ways have made him a national Republican hero – has seen voters respond with hesitation to his spending plan.

Christie’s favorability rating is still in barely positive territory, but a Rutgers-Eagleton poll found it dropped by a net of 10 percentage points in the wake of Christie’s February budget address.

No, Alexander! Not Chris Christie!!! … But … but … Joe Scarborough tells me that he is God… and that EVERYBODY adores him! **pauses to weep uncontrollably…**

After that, the article is a lot … and I do mean a LOT … of focus on Malloy, with some poll data alluding to the big, honking red flags for Republicans. Hey, we’re talking Politico here. But you get the idea. Republicans budget-slashing mania (most of which doesn’t actually address budgets, but rather is a nationwide attempt to hobble unions while ramming through major tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, while passing the bill on to teachers, cops and firefighters) isn’t going over well with actual working people.

Go figure.


In Florida, Felonious Monk (A/K/A Rick Scott) is serving up a policy of mandatory, random drug tests for all state employees reporting to the executive branch (as well as anyone receiving public assistance) that will serve the twin purposes of humliating and demonizing the state workers Republicans so despise, while also potentially lining his pockets by pushing tens of thousands of new custormers to the chain of walk-in clinics he has temporarily signed over to his wife. However, Scott’s push could very well be … wait for it … illegal. Per the Miami Herald:

“It’s the right policy, public policy,’’ Scott told reporters. But federal courts generally have ruled that such policies violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches, say attorneys and legal scholars.

“You can’t do blanket tests like that. They’re facially unconstitutional,’’ said Ephraim Hess, a Davie attorney who prevailed over the City of Hollywood in April 2000 when U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp ruled that governments cannot require prospective employees to take drug tests unless there is a “special need,’’ such as safety. Ryskamp’s ruling led other South Florida cities, such as Pembroke Pines, to abandon their policy of drug testing all job applicants.

Random drug-testing of current government workers also has been limited to those in jobs that affect public safety and to cases where a reasonable suspicion of abuse exists, according to a December 2004 federal court ruling in a case that involved Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice.

In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that the DJJ violated the Fourth Amendment in ordering random drug-testing of all the agency’s 5,000-plus employees.

Hinkle ordered the agency to stop random drug-testing and pay $150,000 to the employee who sued, Roderick Wenzel.

Wenzel, a strategic planner who had no contact with children, was fired for refusing to submit to a drug test — despite his having received positive job evaluations and prizes for his performance, such as the Florida Taxwatch Davis Productivity Award.

“It definitely should have been settled,’’ Wenzel said last week after hearing of the governor’s order reinstating the policy. “I take it this is either Rick Scott’s lack of respect for public employees, or he’s ignorant of the law.’’

State agencies already are allowed, but not required, to screen job applicants for drugs, under the Florida Drug-Free Workplaces Act. The law allows state agencies to test employees if there is a reasonable suspicion that workers are on drugs. But that suspicion must be well-documented, Hess said, and employees must be informed of the policy prior to testing.

Nationally, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed random across-the-board testing of employees in certain circumstances: “Where risk to public safety is substantial and real’’ or where “public safety is genuinely in jeopardy’’ by the possible use of drugs, such as school bus drivers or police officers.

Scott’s order applies to all employees and prospective hires in agencies that answer to the governor, and could affect as many as 100,000 people. Scott also supports a state Senate bill that requires all cash-assistance welfare recipients over the age of 18 to pay for and receive a drug test, a policy that could affect about 58,000 people.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, when they’re not busy rifling through the emails of a university professor who expressed thoughts that displeased the corporate overlords, like so many Libyan government minders, Scott Walker and his allies are attempting an end-run around both the law and the state’s attorney general in their attempt to jam through a law gutting collective bargaining rights for public employees:

Secretary of State Doug La Follette said Saturday that the budget-repair bill has not taken effect because it has not been published by his office.

“It’s still an act of the Legislature that has not yet become law because I have not yet designated a publication date,” La Follette said.

He added the law cannot take effect until he directs publication in the official state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Normally, a bill takes effect the day after publication.

La Follette’s declaration added another twist in the drawn-out drama surrounding Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill, which curtails collective bargaining for most public employees.

After weeks of demonstrations at the state Capitol, a walkout by Senate Democrats and a final push by Republicans to pass the measure, the bill’s fate, at least for now, would appear to be in the hands of the courts.

A Dane County judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing La Follette from publishing the measure. But late Friday, the bill was published by the Legislative Reference Bureau, which was not named in the restraining order.

The director of the bureau, Stephen Miller, said Friday that publishing the bill was a “ministerial act” and that it still had to be published in the official state newspaper for it to become effective.

The Department of Administration said Friday that it will carry out the law. …

Over to Ohio, where Fox News governor John Kasich is touring the state, attempting to give his draconian budget the old song and dance — and getting a quite chilly reception:

Smiling and upbeat, Kasich paced the stage inside the cavernous Capitol Theatre on Tuesday evening, iPad in hand, reading questions that people from across the state had sent in via Twitter.

“We have balanced this budget with no smoke and mirrors, and we have done it in a way that will put Ohio on a path to growth,” he said. “People said: ‘How could you do it? It’s not doable!’ No more kicking that can down the road. Can’t do that anymore in Ohio.”

Despite his best efforts to win over his audience, however, his performance was met with only sporadic applause from the crowd of nearly 900. Kasich received tough questions from Republicans and downright skepticism from Democrats as well as teachers and other public workers who say his proposals would gut schools and government services.

Like other governors across the country whose states are drowning in debt, Kasich is caught between making good on his campaign promises to reduce the size and cost of government, and avoiding an electoral backlash if voters decide that the GOP is cutting too deeply into programs that matter most to them.

“We actually were looking to buy a house, and we stopped doing that because we don’t know what our income is going to be,” said Hope Rummell, a police officer from Alliance, Ohio, who voted for John McCain in 2008 but is alarmed by what Republicans are doing in her state now.

“Nobody gets rich being a police officer or being a fireman,” said Rummell, whose husband is also on the police force. “We’re strong middle class. We went to college, and we do okay. But we have a real fear that this will kill out a large percentage of our middle class in this state.”

Not surprisingly, the polls are not kind:

According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, in the eyes of the public, specific spending cuts and tax increases range from marginally acceptable to extremely unpopular.

Fewer than four in 10 of those surveyed would support reduced spending on roads and infrastructure, increases in state income or sales taxes, or layoffs of state employees. Only about two in 10 would support cuts to Medicaid, closing or limiting access to parks and recreation areas, or reducing aid to public schools. And there is virtually no support for laying off teachers, police officers or firefighters.

There is also no consensus among Democrats, Republicans and independents for budget cuts, complicating any efforts to build broad public support for closing gaps in state finances.

There is, however, wider support for limiting pay and benefits for state workers. Fifty-five percent of survey respondents support freezing wages for state employees, and 51 percent back reducing pension benefits for new state workers.

The implication that Republican overreach in the rust belt could harm the party’s prospects in 2012 is not lost on anyone, including the British:

Throughout most of 2008, as the economy careered into depression, just over one in four believed Bush was handling the economy well. As Bush prepared to leave office in January 2009, bequeathing bank bailouts, rampant unemployment, and Iraq and Afghanistan in tatters, a quarter of the country approved of his presidency.

These are national polls that span the political spectrum. So you can imagine how concentrated the distortions become when filtered through the tainted lens of the right. A poll earlier this month revealed that a quarter of Republicans believe a community rights organisation called Acorn will try to steal the election for Barack Obama next year, while 31% aren’t sure whether it will or not. It won’t. Because Acorn does not exist. It was defunded and disbanded after a successful sting operation by conservatives a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, a poll last month showed that a majority of Republicans likely to vote in the primaries still believe Obama was not born in the United States. He was. But no number of verified birth certificates will convince them.

Such is the nature of the electorate that will select Obama’s principal opponent for the 2012 election. And such is the reason why a viable Republican contender has yet to emerge despite trough-loads of money and the Republican successes of the mid-terms. Among Republicans the latest polls suggest a crowded, splintered field of possibles with Mike Huckabee leading on 19%, followed by Mitt Romney on 15%, Sarah Palin on 12% and Newt Gingrich on 10%.

And if Republicans are unconvinced, Democrats are untroubled. When Obama is pitted against any of them in six states he took from Republicans in 2008, polls suggest he would win all but one — he would lose to Huckabee in North Carolina by 1%. He fares best against Palin, trouncing her by double figures everywhere but Ohio. Despite his favourability ratings suggesting the nation is evenly divided on his job performance, a national Pew poll suggests 47% would back Obama’s re-election against 37% who would prefer a Republican and 16% who did not know.

So what’s a Republican Party to do? If you’re Jim DeMint, you predict that even more potential candidates to enter the already crowded three-ring circus.

Happy sledding!

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4 Responses to Attack of the Republican governors **UPDATE: Politico’s best spin can’t stop ‘the math’

  1. In an otherwise fine report, I must object to the use of the mis-nomer “Felonius Monk” when referring to Florida Plunderer Rick Scott.
    It is wholly unfair to both the great composer Thelonius Monk, and to actual monks in general, everywhere.

  2. Pingback: Rick Scott, Panhandle King | Sinting Link

  3. Pingback: Gov. Rick Scott booed throwing out first pitch of Yankee spring-training game | Sinting Link

  4. protecther says:

    Only an illegal drug user would refuse to take a drug test…Roderick H. Wenzel refused to take a drug test.

    It is sad that a poorly written law allowed a criminal to get away with his illegal behaviors

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