Indiana governor finds you win some, you lose some
For Gov. Mike Pence, both the best of times and the worst of times occurred on almost the same day.
It happens. At dawn, the Hindenburg was just fine. By nightfall, it was an exploding gasbag.
In virtually the same hour he was hailing how he had beaten the evil Sith overlords in Washington and finally taken the $5 billion Medicaid money they’ve been forcing on him, he was also trying to explain how his new “Just IN” program was not the Hoosier Pravda his crack team of crack publicists had concocted.
For about six hours, Hoosier taxpayers were the proud owners of a competing news/propaganda service designed to make Pence look good just as he was launching a presidential bid.
It was all a giant misunderstanding as most bad ideas are when they are uncovered. “Giant misunderstood idea” usually runs a close second to “I was taken out of context.”
In the business of politics, there are few more deadly sins than misplacing your meme.
Controlling the news cycle is the principal art. Don’t let bad news drive your good news off the airwaves.
From the Pence view, the very good news last week was that two years of negotiation finally yielded the expansion of state Medicaid for about 350,000 Hoosiers.
To soothe the crackpot fringe he needs for political advancement, Pence won this debate by demanding his Medicaid expansion be called something else than Medicaid expansion.
They call it Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 and include punishment for moderately poor people if they don’t pay up in time. Indiana has to punish poor people whenever it has the chance, or else how would the Koch brothers know it was a Republican idea?
On one level, getting more medical care into the hands of Hoosier families is no piddling achievement. On another level, we doubt anything in Indiana can be HIP, much less HIP 2.0
Medicaid by any other name would still smell as sweet to someone making $16,000 a year. To be clear, the billions in Medicaid care were always there. Pence declined the checks because fiscal chicken hawks need to show friends how tough they are on moms making minimum wage.
It’s still Medicaid, but now we call it something else. Pence controlled the meme.
That, in fact, is what the feds had offered all states that wished to experiment with Affordable Care Act’s variables. Indiana isn’t even the only state that makes poor people pay for mediocre health care. What a lovely achievement.
But the main point is that Washington had given five states a waiver to experiment. So this was not exactly a hostage crisis that Pence solved with cool, daring negotiating skills.
In a statement that reflected minimal human compassion, Pence noted inexplicably, “HIP 2.0 is not intended to be a long-term entitlement program. It’s intended to be a safety net that aligns incentives with human aspirations.”
In Pence’s view, this program merely gets Indiana’s poor through the cloudy days until they get rich — probably next Monday? — and buy their own insurance.
Some of the poor likely didn’t survive the two years of political posturing, but what the heck. Every war has collateral damage.
As for “Just IN,” the now-aborted “news service” that Pence’s minions almost launched last week was public relations playing all-dress-up for the gullible.
Pence even hired a former Indianapolis Star editor to be the “managing editor.” The state’s organized journalism fraternity was aghast. And even worse for Pence, it was paying attention.
The anger it seldom expressed over Pence’s treatment of poor people was righteously summoned for itself. Mainstream journalism gets all cranky when you take its place at the table and grab for the mash potatoes.
The governor seemed oblivious that operating his own faux “news agency” with his own facts and large staff of well-dressed hacks was eerily similar to Putin-esque news management.
For the first time in a decade, the Indianapolis Star actually woke up and was grumpy.
Within the space of 72 hours, “Just IN” morphed from a good idea to regally dead, with Pence’s deepest embarrassed apologies. Lopped-off publicist heads were seen rolling around Monument Circle.
Thus, Pence split his management doubleheader. He’ll have to do better to woo the cash-filled bovines, but, in fairness, Pence did his bigger aspirations no permanent damage because the bar is low.
The budding GOP presidential herd once again is starting to look like Hillary Clinton and the Seven Little People.