Image via Wikimedia Commons
I’m beginning to wonder if I was in a coma in the summer of 2014. Or maybe I had one of those cases of amnesia like people get in soap operas.
Because there are some things that happened that summer that I just can’t remember, no matter how hard I try. I remember there was a gubernatorial election campaign in full swing here in Illinois. I remember our Democratic incumbent was facing a fierce challenge from one of those tough guy Republican candidates. The brash Republican vowed in his many commercials to get our state’s fiscal house in order by standing up to the powerful special interests and making the “tough” choices Democrats were too wimpy and/or corrupt to make. That’s what tough guy candidates do.
This tough guy Republican was a billionaire, so he could afford to put out lots and lots of commercials. He never previously held elected office, which many voters thought made him supremely qualified to hold elected office. Thus, this tough guy Republican won the election and is now governor of Illinois. In order to protect his privacy and anonymity, I’ll give him an alias. Let’s see now, it should be an alias worthy of an awesome political tough guy, something like Ivan the Terrible. I know-- let’s call him Bruce the Tough Guy!
After the inauguration, Bruce the Tough Guy went right to work. One the first powerful special interests he had the guts to stand up and say no to were people with disabilities who live in various group homes and larger institutions funded by Medicaid. Residents of these places receive a personal needs allowance (PNA) to cover the purchase of personal items such as toothpaste, deodorant, etc. The Social Security Act says a monthly PNA can be no less than $30. This means that the facilities in which these folks live can confiscate all but $30 of the Social Security check each resident receives.
That $30 minimum was set in 1987. Imagine an income of $30 a month today. My friend Ed lives in a nursing home. He spends $15 of his $30 on a haircut. February is a glorious month for him because he only has to stretch his remaining $15 out over 28 days.
States are free to establish PNAs above $30 and in 2014 the Illinois legislature raised the minimum monthly PNA for residents of certain facilities to $60 for the next fiscal year. But shortly after taking office, the administration of Bruce the Tough Guy took that raise away and reduced the PNA back down to the previous levels. No more few extra bucks a month for you punks. That gravy train has derailed!
So here’s where the coma part comes in. I don’t recall seeing any campaign commercials for Bruce the Tough Guy that made it clear that disabled people with very little money were the sort of powerful special interests on which he would get tough. Surely I would have remembered a commercial with a righteously resentful, no-nonsense narrator saying, “Purvis lives in an Illinois group home and he’s living the high life on YOUR tax dollars!” And there’s a picture of Purvis in a jacuzzi, drinking champagne and laughing it up with call girls. “Well when Bruce the Tough Guy becomes governor, this will all come to an end!”
Tough guy candidates get elected because they look the voters square in the eye and tell it like it is. So somewhere along the line Bruce the Tough Guy must have put out a commercial like the one above. The only way I would have missed it is if I was in a coma.
Mike Ervin is a regular contributor to The Progressive and writes the SmartAss Cripple blog.