This time four years ago Rick Scott was a stranger to Floridians. Then he spent $73 million on his first political campaign and rode an angry voter wave to the Governor’s Mansion. For Florida, this has been a hostile takeover by the former CEO of the nation’s largest hospital chain. In three years Scott has done more harm than any modern governor, from voting rights to privacy rights, public schools to higher education, environmental protection to health care. One more legislative session and a $100 million re-election campaign will not undo the damage.
This is the tin man as governor, a chief executive who shows no heartfelt connection to the state, appreciation for its values or compassion for its residents. Duke Energy is charging its electric customers billions for nuclear plants that were botched or never built. Homeowners are being pushed out of the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and into private insurers with higher premiums and no track records. Federal flood insurance rates are soaring so high that many property owners cannot afford the premiums but also cannot sell their homes. The governor sides with the electric utilities and property insurers. He criticizes the president rather than fellow Republicans in Congress for failing to fix the flood insurance fiasco they helped create.
In Scott’s Florida, it is harder for citizens to vote and for the jobless to collect unemployment. It is easier for renters to be evicted and for borrowers to be charged high interest rates on short-term loans. It is harder for patients to win claims against doctors who hurt them and for consumers to get fair treatment from car dealers who deceive them. It is easier for businesses to avoid paying taxes, building roads and repairing environmental damage.
Florida’s modern political era began in 1954 with the election of Gov. LeRoy Collins, who skillfully steered the state through the early years of desegregation and is widely regarded as the state’s greatest governor. Other governors from both political parties had an instinctive feel for Florida and a passion to help its people. In the 1970s, there was Reubin Askew. In the 1980s, Bob Graham. In the 1990s, Lawton Chiles. In the 2000s, Jeb Bush. There were some mediocre and average governors along the way, but even the least of them demonstrated a deep affection for this state and its residents.
Scott, who moved to Naples just seven years before running for governor, treats Florida like another faceless corporate acquisition to be dismantled and repackaged. Collins created the community college system; Scott ordered the colleges to create a gimmick, a handful of bachelor’s degrees that can be purchased for $10,000. Askew established the water management districts and reformed the appointment process for judges; Scott gutted the former and injected more politics into the latter. Gov. Bob Martinez pushed ambitious efforts to manage growth and preserve environmentally sensitive land; Scott decimated both.
The state’s refusal to accept billions in federal money illustrates how this governor ignores the needs of everyday residents. He fought the federal Affordable Care Act all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost. He stood by as the Legislature turned down $51 billion in federal money to help cover 1 million uninsured residents, and now he refuses to reaffirm even his tepid support for taking the money. Tens of thousands of Floridians are signing up for health coverage in the federal marketplace in spite of a governor who refuses to help them.
Scott’s decision to reject $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando was just as callous. At a time when the region was desperate for more jobs, Scott dismissed federal guarantees and let the money go to other states. He called high-speed rail financially risky but then approved far riskier projects to please powerful state legislators. He embraced the expensive SunRail project in Central Florida and the creation of Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, a boondoggle that diminished the University of South Florida and will cost taxpayers dearly for generations.
This governor shows little respect for individual rights. He advocated drug testing for state employees and welfare recipients; the courts ruled against him. He pursued a purge of voter rolls that threatened to disenfranchise minority voters; the county elections supervisors revolted. He signed into law restrictions on early voting; the public outcry forced changes.
Scott sides with developers seeking an easier time building their projects, utilities winning routine approval of higher electric rates and health insurers that now need no state approval to raise rates. For homeowners, there is less protection from leaking septic tanks. For motorists stuck in traffic, the governor’s solution is more toll roads.
The state spends less per public school student than when Scott took office. Parents and teachers have lost faith in a school accountability system in chaos. College students hear the governor’s disdain for a liberal arts education as he demands results on the cheap. Meanwhile, Scott eagerly promises hundreds of millions in tax breaks to businesses pledging to create jobs in future years. His administration approved nearly 350 job creation deals in his first three years in office, but only four jobs have been created for every 100 promised.
The son of a truck driver and a store clerk, Scott grew up poor, lived in public housing for a time and worked his way through law school. He moved to Florida as the former head of a hospital company that paid a record fine for Medicare fraud, and he got himself elected to the state’s highest office. Yet the governor who overcame so much adversity himself shows remarkably little empathy for Floridians and their everyday challenges as they seek a brighter future for themselves and their children. Scott’s soulless approach to governing is turning the Sunshine State into a cold-hearted place, where the warm promise of a fresh start and a fair shake are fading fast. — The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board
“Most Republicans (61%) expect the law will have a mostly negative personal impact; by contrast, 55% of Democrats think the law’s impact will be mostly positive. Independents have mixed expectations about the law’s effects – 34% say it will be mostly negative, 28% say mostly positive and 31% think it won’t have much of an effect.
Majorities of Republicans say in coming years the law will have a mostly negative effect on them and their families (61%) and the country (73%). Democrats express the opposite viewpoints – 55% see the law’s future personal impact positively and 70% say it will have a positive effect on the country.
While independents are divided over the law’s potential personal impact, more say it will have a mostly negative (46%) than a mostly positive (34%) effect on the country.” — Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
“The new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted April 3-6 among 1,010 adults, finds more continue to disapprove (50%) than approve (37%) of the 2010 health care law. Last month, the balance of opinion was similar – 53% disapproved of the law, while 41% approved.
Six-in-ten (60%) voters who oppose the health care law say that a candidate’s stance on the health care law will be very important to their vote, compared with about half (48%) of voters who support the law.
Opinion about the 2010 health care law, as well as its views of its current and future impact, remains deeply divided along partisan lines. By roughly eight-to-one (83% to 10%), Republicans disapprove of the law while Democrats, by a less lopsided margin (73% to 16%) approve of it. Only about a third of independents (34%) approve of the law while 54% disapprove. Opinions across partisan groups are little changed from last month.
A majority of Americans (57%) say the health care law has not had much of an effect on themselves and their families, though somewhat fewer say that today than did so last September (63%). About a quarter (24%) say the law’s impact has been mostly negative while 17% say it has been mostly positive.
On balance, more also say the law has had a negative than positive impact on the country (43% vs. 30%). But negative views of the law’s impact on the country have declined (from 49%) – and positive views have risen (from 23%) – since December.
The public’s assessments of the law’s future impact also remain more negative than positive. Currently, 35% say in coming years the law will have a mostly negative effect on them and their families, 29% expect the effect will be mostly positive, while 30% say the law will not have much of an effect.
Slightly more expect the impact on the country will be negative than positive (44% vs. 38%); relatively few Americans (12%) say the law will not have much of an impact on the country.
Comparable percentages of Democrats (58%) independents (58%) and Republicans (52%) say the law has not yet had much of an effect on them or their families.” — Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
“In looking ahead to this fall’s elections, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to view a candidate’s position on the Affordable Care Act as very important to their vote. A new national survey finds that 64% of Republican registered voters say a candidate’s stance on the health care law will be very important in their voting decision, compared with 52% of Democrats and 45% of independents.
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted April 3-6 among 1,010 adults, finds more continue to disapprove (50%) than approve (37%) of the 2010 health care law. Last month, the balance of opinion was similar – 53% disapproved of the law, while 41% approved.” — Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis, a firebrand northwest Iowa conservative, says he believes many congressional Republicans want to impeach President Obama. The only thing standing in their way, Clovis said in an interview, is the color of the president’s skin.
"I would say there are people in the House of Representatives right now that would very much like to take the opportunity to start the process," Clovis said of impeaching the nation’s first African-American president. "And I think the reason that they’re not is because they’re concerned about the media."
In an interview with the Daily Times Herald, Clovis, who did not provide reasons for why the president would be vulnerable to impeachment, said the media would cover the issues surrounding such proceedings differently with a black president than a white one with the same record.
"It’s not that what he has done would not rise to the level where it might be impeachable," Clovis said. "I don’t think it’s a practical, pragmatic issue. And simply because I don’t think the nation is ready for it."
He said the impeachment of President Bill Clinton didn’t end well.
"Now we have a situation where race is thrown into the cards as well," Clovis said. "Whether we like it or not, race is an issue."
In a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview Monday in Carroll, Clovis, a retired Air Force colonel and a former conservative talk-radio host in Sioux City, had strong criticism for Obama on foreign policy.
Clovis said the Obama administration is guilty of placating Iran, Syria and Egypt. Obama has also “agitated and aggravated” Israel and South Korea, the GOP candidate said.
"Those are all things that I think show that you really don’t care about the friendships, the alliances and the long-standing relationships that we’ve had with a lot of these nations around the world," Clovis said.
Back on the home front, Clovis is a staunch advocate of term limits and said he would serve only two, six-year terms in the Senate. House members should be limited to 12 years as well, he said.
Breaking up the seniority system is central to cutting government spending and limiting federal power, Clovis said.
"I think that system is a system that’s fraught with the potential for corruption, and I really do think the special interests, and the seniority system that are applied inside each conference in the Senate, is really something I don’t think is appropriate," Clovis said,
Bottom line: It’s not right for members of Congress to focus on bringing projects and funding programs in their states, Clovis said.
"If you’re no longer concerned about incumbency and re-election, you have the opportunity then to really focus on what’s best for the nation and then what’s best for the state if you’re a U.S. senator," Clovis said.
Sooner or later, he said, members of Congress need to see some of their own pet programs cut or killed for the betterment of the nation.
"There is broad consensus about the values that should guide the government’s economic policy, with approximately 8-in-10 Americans in agreement that promoting freedom and liberty (86%), encouraging people to live more responsible lives (86%), and promoting equality and fairness (79%) are extremely important and or very important values. More than 6-in-10 (64%) Americans cite providing a public safety net for people facing hardships as extremely or very important guides, while fewer Americans say the same of supporting private charity for the poor.
Republicans (93%) and Tea Party members (93%) are most likely to say promoting freedom and liberty is an extremely or very important moral guide to economic policy, though strong majorities of independents (86%) and Democrats (81%) say the same. There are few differences between racial, religious, and ethnic groups on this value.
Strong majorities of all political groups, including 89% of Tea Party members, 87% of Republicans, 86% of Democrats, and 85% of independents, see encouraging people to live more responsible lives as an extremely important or very important moral guide to economic policy.
Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents say promoting equality and fairness is an extremely or very important economic guide, but there is a 22-point gap in intensity between Democrats and Republicans. Nearly 9-in-10 (88%) Democrats say promoting and fairness is extremely or very important, followed by independents (81%) and Republicans (66%). Although more than 6-in-10 (61%) Tea Party members regard the promotion of equality and fairness as an extremely or very important guide, they are substantially more likely than other political groups to say the value is not that important (17% of Tea Party members, compared to 7% of Republicans, 5% of independents, and 1% of Democrats). Similarly, there are significant racial differences in intensity. More than 9-in-10 (93%) black Americans say promoting equality and fairness is extremely or very important, compared to 85% of Hispanics and 74% of white Americans.
There are significant differences by political affiliation, race, religion and income level on the question of whether providing a public safety net for people facing hardships should guide the government’s economic policy. Seventy-seven percent of Democrats say providing a public safety net is extremely or very important, compared to 63% of independents and 47% of Republicans. Black Americans are most likely to say providing a public safety net is an extremely or very important value (82%), compared to 7-in-10 (70%) Hispanic Americans, and roughly 6-in-10 (59%) white Americans. Majorities of all religious groups say providing a public safety net is an extremely or very important value for guiding economic policy, but there are variations in intensity. Black Protestants are most supportive (80%), followed by Catholics (64%), religiously unaffiliated (60%), white evangelical Protestants (58%), and white mainline Protestants (56%). The importance of this value drops as income rises: nearly three-quarters (73%) of low-income Americans (those with annual household incomes of $30,000 or less) say providing a public safety net for people facing hardships is an extremely or very important value, compared to 56% of high-income Americans (those with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more).
Majorities of all political groups, including 63% of Democrats, 58% of independents, 54% of Tea Party members, and 53% of Republicans agree that supporting private charity for the poor is an extremely or very important moral guide for government policy about the economy. There are substantial differences among racial and ethnic groups. Approximately three-quarters of black (75%) and Hispanic (72%) say support for private charity is an extremely or very important guide, compared to a slimmer majority (54%) of white Americans. Strong divisions also exist among religious groups. Black Protestants are most inclined to say supporting private charity for the poor is extremely or very important for guiding economic policy (74%), followed by white evangelical Protestants (65%), Catholics (63%), white mainline Protestants (52%), and religiously unaffiliated Americans (45%). Support for the value varies significantly by income level: 70% of low-income Americans (those with annual household incomes of $30,000 or less) say supporting private charity is extremely or very important, compared to less than half (49%) of high-income Americans (those with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more).” — 2013 Economic Values Survey, Public Religion Research Institute and The Brookings Institution
"In order to measure theological orientation, we created a composite theological orientation scale based on three measures: holding a personal vs. impersonal view of God, holding a literal vs. non-literal view of the Bible or sacred texts, and holding a preservationist vs. adaptive view of religious tradition. These three measures were highly correlated and produced a reliable scale that worked well across religious traditions. Those who scored low on this scale were defined as theological liberals, those who scored high were defined as theological conservatives, and those in the middle were defined as theological moderates.
Using this scale, approximately 4-in-10 Americans (38%) are theological conservatives, 28% are theological moderates, and 19% are theological liberals. An additional 15% of Americans are nonreligious, defined as those who identify as atheist or agnostic, or who say religion is not important to their lives.
One of the most striking findings revealed by the scale is the dramatic variation in theological orientation by race and ethnicity. Overall, black Americans are significantly more likely to be theological conservatives than white or Hispanic Americans. Among white Americans, 40% are theological conservatives, 25% are theological moderates, and 18% are theological liberals. Among black Americans, nearly half (49%) are theological conservatives, 30% are theological moderates, and 14% are theological liberals. Notably, Hispanic Americans are more likely than white or black Americans to identify as theological liberals. About 3-in-10 (28%) Hispanic Americans are theological conservatives, 38% are theological moderates, and 23% are theological liberals. White Americans (17%) are more likely than black Americans (7%) or Hispanic Americans (11%) to be categorized as nonreligious.” — 2013 Economic Values Survey, Public Religion Research Institute and The Brookings Institution
"Not surprisingly, there are significant differences in theological orientation by political affiliation, with Republicans exhibiting a significantly different profile than either independents or Democrats. Republicans (57%) are nearly twice as likely as independents (31%) or Democrats (31%) to be theological conservatives. Tea Party members have a similar theological profile to Republicans overall, as nearly 6-in-10 (59%) are theological conservatives. By contrast, about 1-in-5 independents (20%) and Democrats (21%) are theological liberals, compared to 13% of Republicans. About 1-in-5 Democrats (17%) and independents (21%) are nonreligious, about three times the number of Republicans (6%).
It is notable that the theological orientation distribution among Democrats is strongly affected by the high number of black Americans in their ranks. Among white Democrats, for example, fewer than 1-in-4 (22%) are theological conservatives, while nearly half are either theological liberals (22%) or nonreligious (26%). Black Democrats, by contrast, are twice as likely as white Democrats to be theological conservatives: 51% are theological conservatives, compared to 1-in-5 who are theological liberals (15%) or nonreligious (5%).
Generational differences are also quite pronounced. A majority (54%) of Silent Generation members are theologically conservative, compared to 3-in-10 (29%) Millennials. Millennials are much more likely to be nonreligious (22% vs. 10%), but only somewhat more likely than members of the Silent Generation to be theologically liberal (23% vs. 13%).
Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants stand out as the most theologically conservative. Eight-in-ten (80%) white evangelical Protestants are theological conservatives, compared to 4% who are theological liberals. Nearly 6-in-10 (57%) black Protestants are theological conservatives, compared to 10% who are theological liberals. White mainline Protestants and Catholics are more evenly divided. Among white mainline Protestants, 36% are theological conservatives, and 25% are theological liberals. Similarly, among Catholics, 29% are theological conservatives, 28% are theological liberals. The only religious group in which a plurality are theological liberals are non-Christian religious Americans, a group consisting of Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and members of other non-Christian religions. Among this group, only 7% are theological conservatives, compared to 43% who are theological liberals.” — 2013 Economic Values Survey, Public Religion Research Institute and The Brookings Institution