By Glynn Wilson –
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — About 50 people, including a number of homeless, joined a Progressive Democrats of America rally Saturday in Kelly Ingram Park designed to try to shame Alabama Governor Robert Bentley into changing his mind and opt in to Obamacare and expand Medicaid in the state.
“Clap your hands if you know that Governor Robert Bentley is the new George Wallace of Alabama,” said Anthony Johnson of the Birmingham NAACP, a Democratic candidate for state House District 53 in the 2014 elections. “My grandfather used to say that Jim Crow is dead, but his cousins are still living.”
If it is criminal to be poor, he said, “then we’re all criminals. Maybe that’s why our country is building more jails than schools.”
“The fight for Medicaid is not about race because we see that more whites will benefit from Obamacare in the state of Alabama than blacks,” Johnson said. “Shame on you governor Bentley. You won’t get one vote from Alabama for governor unless you do right by your constituency.”
Grayson Brown, representing the Birmingham Chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America, quoited Nelson Mandella, who died this week. He said: “As long as injustice exists in the world, we cannot truly rest.”
“There is an injustice brewing in Alabama,” Brown said. “We are asking Governor Bentley to accept (Medicaid) expansion by December 31.”
That is the deadline for accepting $1.5 billion in federal money for the state to expand and fund health care for about 300,000 residents who have no coverage under current private health insurance plans or the state Medicaid system as it exists.
“Governor Bentley says we cannot afford it,” Brown said. “He is dead wrong, and I don’t choose my words lightly. We are talking about health care coverage for 300,000 of the working poor and their families. People will die because of this decision.”
It would be a job creator, Brown said, and the governor is refusing it because “he says it’s an entitlement and we can’t afford it.”
Yet the federal government has pledged to send $11.4 billion to the state over the next few years.
“That money would spread through the economy. It would be paid to doctors, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists. They would then go spend that money in restaurants, tip waitresses, buy cell phones and cars,” Brown said. “Like blood going through the body, it would grow into $28 billion.”
That would generate more than $900 million in tax revenue for the state, while the state’s 10 percent portion of the program would only cost $771 million, according to studies conducted by the University of Alabama.
“What the governor has not told people, what you do not hear on the six o’clock news, is that the taxes are greater than the cost,” Brown said.
He cited the editorial position of David Bronner with the Retirement System of Alabama who has called on the governor to opt in to Obamacare and expand Medicaid in part because it would create 30,000 news jobs in the state.
“Who are you going to trust?” Brown asked. “A politician? Or someone whose got the back of all Alabama state employees?”
He challenged the governor to debate Bronner on television in prime time.
He said because of the governor’s decision, tax money from Alabama citizens will go to fund health care in California, but the money from California’s citizens will not make its way to Alabama. Also, federal payments to hospitals for indigent care will drop.
“A perfect storm is brewing,” Brown said. “As a result of the governor’s decision, hospitals in this state are going to go under.”
He said it is not his intention that the governor have a legacy as “a mean old man.”
“We don’t want him to have a legacy as Governor Scrooge McBentley,” Brown said. “We want him to do the right thing.”
Scott Douglas of Birmingham Ministries said he has witnessed something he’s never seen in his life.
“I have never seen a Republican governor refuse the advice of Republican businessmen,” Douglas said. “Republican businessmen … have told our governor that Medicaid expansion is good business for Alabama.”
Edward Savela, Alabama State Leader of the Progressive Democrats of America, said the reason behind Bentley’s refusal to take the Medicaid funds is “a red state cabal of governors who want to discredit Obamacare.”
He said Obamacare is working, despite the glitches reported about the Healthcare.gov Website.
“What Bentley is trying to do … is to discredit our president and our president’s wonderful plan,” Savela said.
Kim Denmark, who is walking across America to fight for the homeless, the jobless and against poverty, will be in Birmingham for a few days. She joined the rally in Kelly Ingram Park on Saturday, fed the homeless hodogs and chips, and told her story of getting sick after being a successful business woman and deciding to go on a quest to help other people.
“We need health care in America,” Denmark said, because 220,000 people need it. ”When it comes to your health, I’m concerned.”
© 2013 – 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.