Alabama politicians: You’re drunk, go homeBy Leigh Terry | 10/23/2014 12:46am
I have to admit, I laughed when I saw the news Monday that state Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard had been indicted on 23 class B felony counts. Most of those charges revolved around questions of how Speaker Hubbard may have used his office to solicit money from wealthy companies and individuals for himself and his business ventures. Thus, an election cycle that started with the Republican takeover of the state legislature in 2010 played out like a Shakespearean comedy for Democrats: In with a tear, out with a laugh.
However, while I may have laughed, I did not cheer for the charges. I did not cheer because less than a decade after the trial of former Governor Don Siegelman, Alabamians find themselves yet again embarrassed by their political leadership. Once again, it appears the highest echelons of our political elite may have traded the already weak integrity of our state government for a cash cow. Once again, we are reminded that Alabama politics are equal parts tragedy and farce.
While the shame we feel for our indicted officials may be great, it is far from our greatest tragedy. Unfortunately, for all the hoopla and grand promises made by Republican candidates in 2010 and 2012, they have failed to deliver any meaningful progress in improving the employment, health, educational and social outcomes of Alabama citizens.
Their insistence on fighting the Affordable Care Act by not expanding Medicaid costs 235,000 residents access to life-saving health care that won’t bankrupt them. It also costs state hospitals $7 billion in reimbursements for care. Lack of health insurance also means lack of preventative health care, coverage for contraception and prenatal care, which could reduce Alabama’s high heart disease, teen pregnancy and child mortality rates.
Their creative use of the Alabama budget has taken a huge bite out of the Education Trust Fund that has yet to be repaid and seems unlikely to be repaid any time soon given the current slate of candidates’ “no tax increase” pledges. The Alabama Accountability Act they pushed through the legislature by brute force has the potential to funnel money from public schools to “segregation academies” founded in the late 1960s specifically to avoid compliance with Brown v. Board of Education, because re-segregating schools is easier than fixing integrated ones.
These same politicians put our corporate recruitment at risk by their hardline stances on gay marriage and LGBTQIA employment discrimination. In the 21st century, next to no company is going to choose to relocate in a state where its employees’ marriages and adoptions are no longer valid. Alabama and its elected state Supreme Court justices will wait until the federal court system forces us to change, yet we wonder why our unemployment rate is still at 6.6 percent.
To the state’s incumbent officeholders: you’ve had your fun, but you got drunk on power and went insane with ideological zeal. Stop embarrassing Alabama and do its citizens a favor. Go home.
Leigh Terry is a junior majoring in economics. Her column runs weekly.