Dear Rick…Love, Jeb

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The following is a guest column from progressive blogger Daniel Tilson:

Scrambling to stay ahead of the story of how and why emails that should by Law have been preserved as public records were instead deleted in early 2011, Governor Rick Scott’s minions are in the process of retrieving and releasing emails previously thought “lost” – notably including some sent to him by former governor Jeb Bush during the earliest days of the new Scott administration.

One such “Dear Rick” missive began in this funny-sad fashion:

“You didn’t ask for this, but it is the standard ‘envelope in the desk to the new guy’ for words from the old guy. To be honest, I did the same thing to Governor Crist but he did nothing I suggested, so with the risk of being presumptuous, I am trying again.”

If not their political legacies – most definitely not their political legacies – one has to admire the perseverance of the Bush Brothers. Well, George W. and Jeb, anyway. They stuck to their guns and doggedly pursued political and policy agendas that divided Florida and the rest of the United States into 3 basic camps: the “Have It Alls”; the “Have Nots”; and the “Have Some And Don’t Want Government Giving Any Of It To Those Damned Have Nots.”

That’s the living legacy of Jeb & George: A Divide & Conquer brand of scorched earth politics and governance that widens economic gaps and deepens social divides between citizens of a state, and nation.

Take W…Please (Sorry, couldn’t resist). But seriously, you could cover every inch of his Crawford, TX ranch with eight-mile high piles of white papers – government studies, not Socialist manifestos – documenting the damage done by his presidency. ‘Nuff said.

But the Jeb Bush legacy is more nuanced, like the man. The emails to Rick Scott are a reminder that while Big Brother George may have hunkered down for good in Crawford, content to let History have its way with him, Jeb is still very much The Player.

Since leaving office in 2007 he has played the role of Puppet Master to near perfection, pulling strings all over the place and watching as obedient legislators, bureaucrats and business leaders dance to his tune. Call it  “The Privatization Waltz”. In his January 2, 2011 email list of “Ideas For Governor Rick Scott”, Bush was pushing through one hell of a wide-open door in recommending expanded diversion of public education and health care dollars into the bank accounts of for-profit corporations.

Almost all Floridians know the public school system is in crisis. Many also know the Medicaid health care system for the poor and disabled is a mess. But Jeb’s political skills are such that most people don’t connect the dots and assign him the blame he deserves as chief architect of these system failures. Fewer still see the strings he continues pulling to keep things moving in the worst possible direction – toward loosely regulated, profit-driven private management and administration of most core government services.

Make no mistake. Jeb Bush is the man primarily responsible for the failed educational system we have now. As governor, he successfully championed the terrible “Teaching to the test” FCAT system of rating & funding schools, while younger brother Neil was a key player in the standardized testing software industry. Jeb also launched the charter school movement in Florida, the one that has systematically siphoned untold millions out of public schools and into charters run by private companies. And as his email to Scott shows, Jeb will never give up on efforts to turn taxpayer dollars into private school vouchers – which he has repackaged and now sells under the far more friendly brand name of  “Education Savings Accounts”.

Jeb played the same destructive shell game way with Medicaid dollars, strong-arming the legislature in 2006 into approving a 5-county pilot program (currently up for renewal) that forced poor, disabled and elderly Medicaid recipients into for-profit, managed care HMOs. And as with the ongoing push to turn more and more public education dollars over to private corporations, Jeb never stopped pulling strings to orchestrate full statewide privatization of Medicaid health care services.

In 2010 and 2011, the stars aligned for him, as a corrupted former health insurance CEO was elected governor, and extreme conservative Republicans took over both houses of the legislature. Bing-Bang-Boom, and here we are waiting to hear if the federal government will allow Florida to move forward with just such a plan, one that sailed through the House, Senate and under Rick Scott’s gleaming eyes as he signed it into law.

So, what have we learned here? Well sure, if someone (Florida Democratic Party, Hello?) can’t figure out how to creatively and effectively connect the dots for most Floridians, then we can expect more of the same very bad government from Rick Scott and the state legislature, and plenty more of the same offstage puppet-mastering and manipulation from Jeb Bush – until he decides which public office he wants to run for next.

Regarding legacies…well, the email from Bush to Scott certainly underscores the persistent consistency of Jeb’s agenda, and his dogged pursuit of it. And the miserable deterioration of Florida’s public school and health care systems ever since he took over as governor in 1999 stand as testament to both that agenda’s ascendancy, and its utter ineffectiveness.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.