Opinion » Editorial

Trump Lite: Governor Bill Lee’s State of the State Address

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So what to make of our newly elected governor's State of the State message, delivered Monday night?

Governor Lee
  • Governor Lee

The case could be made that it was Trumpism, put forth via good manners and a likeable disposition. What else could be made of Lee's "unapologetic" vow to propagate the doctrine of "American exceptionalism?" Or his masking a call for compulsory teaching of unbridled capitalism in Tennessee schools as "civics"? Or as a corollary to this curriculum, his endorsement of pedagogical hunt-and-destroy missions against "socialism," as if economic policies adopted in some moderate measure by virtually every country allied to America — and in minute quantities in various eras of American government — amount to some pernicious form of enemy infiltration, needful of extirpation.

Does he not realize that the education vouchers he disguises as "education savings accounts" are the same sour spinach that most good Republicans in the suburbs of Shelby County recognize as serious threats to the health of the municipal public school systems they now willingly spend tax money on? As for his evangelism on behalf of charter schools, these were regarded as subversive of education by the self-same suburbanites who controlled the old, pre-merger Shelby County Schools system.

The weakest part of the State of the State, and the part to which Lee offered only minimal, even desultory attention, was health care. A key portion of that — the key portion in that it indicates the way in which the professed opponents of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act beg the question — was this line: "Another way to lower health care cost is to combat Medicaid fraud."

This is, of course, the usual right-wing delusion — expressed most bigly by the current president — that all governmental problems stem from "waste and abuse" and all can be solved by curbing them. It is a belief, contrary not only to common sense but to all practical experience, that the administration of public affairs is really only a matter of working around the edges, of sealing the leaks caused by big-government wastrels.

Oh, and there's this: "We will also be exploring ways to build off the important efforts of the Trump administration to promote price transparency." The governor would be well advised not to hold his breath waiting to see such efforts become real. We would suggest that they will appear about the same time as does the "great" replacement for "Obamacare" that Trump once promised would cover "everybody."

Never mind that the number of Tennessee hospitals closed  for lack of funding is now in the double digits. Easy to remedy, says Lee: "Despite the closure of rural hospitals across the state and country, there are many opportunities to transform care in these communities through smart reforms, increased innovation, and a new business model."

To be sure, Lee offered some encouragingly salvific rhetoric about easing the re-entry of released prisoners into society and making expungement of nonviolent criminal records less expensive and troublesome.

There were places in Governor Lee's address that contained good sense. If we have emphasized the less salutary moments here, it is out of simple caution.

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