Politics, people, and Pawlenty’s priorities

POLITICS, PEOPLE, AND PAWLENTY’S PRIORITIES…. Following up on an item from yesterday, Minnesota, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), desperate to pander to the party’s base in advance of his presidential campaign, issued an order to state officials this week, demanding that they not seek grants through Affordable Care, even if the funding would help Minnesotans.

It’s worth emphasizing that the decision isn’t exactly going over well in the North Star State. Consider this Star-Tribune editorial, asking exactly how much money Minnesota will lose to other states as a result of Pawlenty’s silly, petty game.

The ticker clicked another $1 million on Wednesday, the deadline for Minnesota’s application for a grant to help fund the establishment of an exchange at which people can shop for affordable health insurance.

That’s chump change compared with the money he has already turned down, to the detriment of sick and needy Minnesotans and the professionals who treat them. The Republican governor has already spurned early enrollment of the state’s poorest adults in the state-federal Medicaid program. DFL legislators say it would bring an additional $1.4 billion to the state’s health care industry through 2013 and fund an estimated 22,000 private-sector health care jobs.

Also on Pawlenty’s rejection list: $68 million to bring a federal high-risk insurance pool to Minnesota (a justifiable choice, since Minnesota’s own pool is less expensive for most people than the federal one); $1 million for premium rate reviews, and $850,000 for teen-pregnancy prevention — though Pawlenty did apply for a $500,000 abstinence-only sex ed grant. The latter program will cost the state an additional $350,000 and offers weaker evidence of effectiveness. Pawlenty must have been persuaded by something other than cost and results.

The lost-opportunity tally is bound to grow — and with it, the negative impact on Minnesota lives.

Presidential aspirants tend to be pretty popular in their home states when they run — Obama was popular in Illinois, Bush in Texas, Clinton in Arkansas, etc. It makes sense, of course, since candidates seeking national office can’t expect to do well everywhere if their own constituents disapprove of their performance.

Pawlenty will only be governor for a few more months, but to serve the insatiable right-wing appetites of Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire, he seems willing to sacrifice his own standing in his own state — as well as the needs of his constituents who would benefit from federal health care grants that will now go elsewhere.

I should also note that Pawlenty has said he will seek and accept health funding from the federal government, just so long as the money is part of other programs, unconnected to the Affordable Care Act. Referring to upcoming Medicaid funds, the governor said, “We’ll likely take that money. It’s not Obamacare.”

To my mind, that makes matters worse — this petty little ideologue is willing to apply for money that will help his state, but only if it comes from laws signed by other presidents, not the current president. Instead of evaluating funding on the merits, Pawlenty considers funding based on which law was signed by which president.

It’s the kind of childish game that not only hurts real people who count on their governor to be responsible, but should also discredit Pawlenty as a national figure.