Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by

Trump’s State of the Union address was the opposite of Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers’ State of the State address in humanity, tone and substance. Trump began with urging bipartisan “cooperation, compromise and the common good”. It was jaw-dropping. “This language completely glosses over the past 3 1/2 years. Whatever you think of Trump’s politics, he has pursued a divisive political strategy very much focused on his base. …he has exacerbated (divisions) with an unyielding, uncompromising and controversial style that relies on fomenting cultural wars and humiliating those who run afoul of him” (Washington Post).

There was nothing for regular folks. Trump described a rosy economy, but left unsaid was the growing inequality of income and wealth. The Washington Post headline provided clarity: “Wealth concentration returning to levels unseen since (19)20s”. The New York Times reported that stock market “gains haven’t been spread among the masses. Stock market wealth is heavily concentrated among the richest families”. Moreover, there was no Trump plan to solve real problems such as strengthening (not sabotaging) the Affordable Care Act, infrastructure and pension reform, e.g., making certain that the Central States Pension Fund retirees get their hard-earned pensions.

The centerpiece of Trump’s bombast was his wall, notwithstanding that illegal immigration has been declining for years, most outlawed drugs enter the U.S. through border stations and terrorists are not coming across the Mexico-U.S. border. Moreover, the ultimate Trump hypocrisy and lie: “Former employees’ accounts indicate that Trump, who denounces workers without legal status, has long benefited from their labor” (Washington Post). Pathetic.

And, to add insult to injury Trump fantasized: “Here in the United States we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country” (earlier echoed by Wisconsin GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos who said “we won’t let socialism … take root in our state”). All reminiscent of reactionaries who denounced Social Security as “socialism” and Medicare as “socialized medicine”. No, Trump is not a populist. He uses deception, fearmongering and theatrics to divert our attention. What a contrast to Governor Evers.

Evers’ State of the State address was an optimistic, roll-up-your-sleeves speech focused on solving problems facing regular folks. It celebrated the diversity, history and humanity of Wisconsin. And, he touted the Wisconsin Idea and BadgerCare (enlargement of Medicaid under Wisconsin GOP Governor Tommy Thompson). Evers emphasized that his first budget will include Medicaid expansion as provided for in the Affordable Care Act.

Evers wants to join 33 states (many GOP-led) that have expanded Medicaid, plus 3 more that recently approved it in state referendums. An educator, Evers has done the math. 90 percent federal funding for expanded Medicaid will cover 76,000 more Wisconsinites. And, resultant savings could be used to increase state funding for education and infrastructure. Moreover, Wisconsin doctors and hospitals know that expanded health coverage will reduce uncompensated care (over $1 billion in 2017, Wisconsin Hospital Association).

It’s long past time for Wisconsin GOP legislators to join enlightened GOP legislators nationwide in embracing the math and morality of Medicaid expansion.

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

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