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COLUMN

Happytown

This week we get all hot and bothered with Debbie Wasserman Schultz at an Obama office launch, then we get get all cold and critical in our private prison cell. We go to extremes.

Photo: Billy Manes, License: N/A

Billy Manes


After the grandstanding, we got pushed into a side office with the chairwoman and Dyer – “Anyone got a blotter?” the pool of sweat known as Dyer’s face asked – and we got our own one minute with our favorite lady Democrat.

“So, obviously the messaging is going to have to be different, right?” we blew some hot air. “I mean, you can’t go around saying ‘hope’ or, especially, ‘change’ in this situation, can you?”

“I think what we’re tasked with doing is making sure that we can talk to people about our accomplishments, make people understand that Barack Obama was responsible for finally giving access to healthcare to everyone in America,” she speed-spoke. “For seniors in our state, showing them how we closed the prescription drug gap in coverage and [made] sure that they don’t have to worry about scoring their pills anymore. Like choosing between medicine and meals.”

Pills, please. Go on, congresswoman. “Making sure that they understand that, going forward, Democrats under his leadership will fight to protect Social Security and Medicare. Republicans have proposed to end both as we know it. That’s unacceptable and the third rail in Florida. We need to make sure that we preserve Social Security and Medicare for the long term, but we need Republicans to work with us – that’s what he’s been pushing hard for. Unfortunately they don’t seem to be interested in doing that. The only job they’re worried about is Barack Obama’s, and we’re going to make sure people understand our priorities.”

Try fitting that on a bumper sticker.

Dark, dark days lie ahead for Florida’s prisons – the state’s former Department of Corrections chief, Edwin Buss, abruptly resigned on Aug. 24, and less than a week prior, the independent Correctional Medical Authority, an agency that monitored the quality of healthcare in the state’s prisons, closed its doors. The CMA was muscled out of the state’s budget during this spring’s legislative session, the same session during which legislators arranged to hand over the entirety of the prison healthcare system to private companies.

Democratic dissenters, neutered by a Republican majority during their time in Tallahassee, have belatedly turned to their Plan B – complaining publicly. On Aug. 19 Senate Democratic Leader Pro Tempore Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, called the shuttering of the CMA “a grave mistakeopening Florida and Florida taxpayers to the possibility of widespread financial and legal repercussions” in a prepared statement.

The entire reason for the agency’s existence, the legislators point out, was an agreement between the federal courts and the state following a lawsuit in 1972 over inadequate healthcare in Florida’s prisons, resulting partly from overcrowding. Therefore, critics like Joyner and Pafford argue, the elimination of an oversight agency, which had only cost the state $717,680 per year, could end up costing the state much more in court.

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