Watching Clumsy Card Sharks Try to Stack the Deck


Rep. Mike Hawker (2011), photo by Chris Miller/AP

Rep. Mike Hawker (2011), photo by Chris Miller/AP

There’s few experiences more painful than watching an elderly uncle try to perform card tricks. If you’re going to stack a deck of cards, you have to have to have a certain amount of manual dexterity, a gift for the patter and a kind of charm. WC clearly remembers his Uncle Mac completely failing at all three, spraying cards across the living room floor. There’s that embarrassment, annoyance and dismay.

WC is suffering a very similar reaction watching Rep. Mike Hawker (R, Anchorage), the chair of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, try to pull of a card trick on Medicaid expansion. Rep. Hawker and his fellow majority caucus members don’t like Medicaid expansion, not for any real policy reason but for political reasons; you know, Obama and the traitorous Gov. Bill Walker. Rep. Hawker is casting about for a way to kill the idea, since the complete failure of the caucus’s indefensible idea that the State of Alaska’s software systems couldn’t cope.

The new idea is to hire an expert to aid in the development of the understanding necessary to make informed public policy decisions regarding the Medicaid reform and expansion proposals that are under consideration by the Legislature.” There’s a request for proposals on the street from the Republican-controlled Legislative Budget and Audit Committee to find such an “independent policy resource.”

The state senate Finance Committee already went through this sham process, at the start of the near-unending recent session. The “independent professional policy resource” the state senate selected? Bill Streur. You know, the former Commissioner of Health and Social Services under Governor Sean “Captain Zero” Parnell, who “advised” Captain Zero not to accept federally-funded Medicaid expansion. Bill Streur is about as “neutral” as caustic lye. We know exactly where he stands on Medicaid expansion: opposed to it for purely political reasons. Oh, and the Senate Finance Committee recently extended Mr. Streur’s consulting contract. WC supposes that, however dire the state’s financial situation, there’s always money available to hire someone to tell the majority caucus what it wants to hear.

And now Rep. Hawker wants to hire an “independent expert” of his own. Rep. Hawker isn’t going through this mock-consulting effort to get a truly independent opinion. He’s engaged in finding someone to validate his pre-formed conclusions. The RFP process is just the latest effort to stack the deck. It’s clumsy, wasteful of state money and harmful to the folks who don’t have health insurance. It’s WC’s Uncle Mac failing to pull of his card tricks, except that when the cards fly across the room it is real, human lives that are at stake. People are sick and dying. While Rep. Hawker struggles to find an excuse not to help them. It’s not merely embarrassing; it’s disgusting.1

A strong majority of Alaskans want Medicaid expansion. They understand it helps control their own health insurance costs. They understand Medicaid-funded preventative scare saves tens of millions of dollars in future, ufunded critical care. They understand it would pump $90 million into the Alaska economy. They understand it’s the right thing to do.

Yet Rep. Hawker is attempting clumsy political card tricks.

  1. It’s fiscally stupid, too. The Alaska Legislature has already lost the chance to get two years of 100% Medicaid expansion funding. It drops to 95% after one more year.