In Privatizing Prison Nurses, Bruce Rauner Shows Depth of GOP Ideology


Image result for old prison

“Why should the lucky ducks who work here get all the breaks?” -Bruce Rauner



Sometimes, it’s the big and obvious stories (like, say, delegating your son-in-law to handle Iraq, because “the kid had a globe as a child”) that reveal the whole ballgame. Sometimes it is obvious. But most of the time, the real roots of an ideology are hidden at the margins, small-seeming and usually state-level decisions that are page 8 stuff, legislative battles in sleepy capital cities. That’s where decisions that impact people’s lives are made, and far from the spotlight, that’s where the worst of Republican “governance” flails its tentacles.

That’s the case in Illinois, where Bruce Rauner is sort-of-unwittingly showing exactly what “no government” looks like. To sum up broadly, in case you haven’t been paying attention: Rauner wants to turn Illinois in Walker’s Wisconsin by starving the government, imposing austerity, and cutting off any social programs so that the rich can have tax cuts. It’s sheer Ryanism; it looks like Trump’s budget. The Dems, led by boss Mike Madigan, haven’t wanted to let him do this, for reasons both noble and political. Namely, Rauner wants to destroy unions, which is a huge Democratic base of power in Illinois, one of the few states that still has strong public and private sector unions.

Now, keeping unions alive is a good thing! In fact, it’s great, and it is good that the Democrats aren’t letting Rauner impose austerity, because it doesn’t work, and it hurts people. The upshot of 22 months without a budget, though, is that we’re seeing extreme austerity. Check out the carnage in this report by the Center for a Responsible Budget. I’ll just highlight a random part.

$0 dollars of state funding has been provided for domestic violence services for the entire state since June 2016, putting thousands of lives at risk. (Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network)  Illinois is not funding tuition grants for 130,000 low-income college students, forcing many to drop out. (Young Invincibles)  80,000 people in Illinois have lost access to needed mental health services. (National Alliance on Mental Illness, Chicago)  As rates of opioid addiction steadily rise, over 24,000 fewer Illinoisans were admitted to addiction treatment services. (Illinois Association for Behavioral Health)  Nearly 30% fewer pregnant women and families with young children have received proven, cost-effective parent coaching and home visiting services. (The Ounce of Prevention Fund)  34% fewer women received life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings. (Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Taskforce)  90% of homeless service providers have been forced to cut clients, services, or staff. (Housing Action Illinois)  2,311 fewer formerly homeless Illinoisans received needed supportive housing services putting them at risk of losing their homes and entering higher cost systems. (Housing Action Illinois)  Illinois’ 29 rape crisis centers were forced to lay off staff and cut hours resulting in waitlists for survivors seeking help. (Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault)

It’s brutality across the state. The Democrats aren’t blinking because, if they do, Rauner wants to make this essentially permanent. It might not be as horrific, but it will be close.

Still, at the margins, Rauner is trying to change the way the state runs. Right now, the seemingly-small big move is to privatize prison nurses.

Governor Bruce Rauner wants a private employer to take over 120 nursing jobs from state prisons. But the Illinois Senate passed legislation that would block the plan on Wed.

The governor says his plan would save $8 million. That’s chump change for state government. But this fight is about one of the larger arguments between the governor and his opponents.

Privatization. Governor Rauner is trying to move jobs and responsibilities of the state over to private hands. Private companies, the thinking goes, can do the same work for cheaper.

Democrats say that’s because private companies don’t pay their workers well. And four Republican senators agreed, including Sam McCann from Plainview.

“Why can’t we be for working people? Why would we let these nurses go, then hire them back the next day…for less.”

Well Sam…that’s a good goddamn question. Why exactly would you? To save a few million dollars? It’s about two things: power and ideology (which are really one thing).

State employees are unionized, and by privatizing them, sending them to companies without unions, they cut the legs off of labor, ensuring that the GOP can maintain power in a blue state.

But why do they want to stay in power? To transform the state entirely. Think about what this move does: all it will do is make lives harder for nurses who work in prisons. And for the prisoners, for that matter, who will get substandard care since the private companies have little incentive to go beyond the minimum.

In trying to explain the argument for Rauner, the Illinois News Network (which leans right, or at least “fiscally levelheaded”) kind of gives away the game.

Meanwhile Wilson said in an email the department has seen overtime costs increase $300 million since 2014.

Overtime pay for Illinois’ prison nurses pushed some salaries to well over six figures, and in one case a corrections nurse made about $254,000 in 2016 alone.

Well, that sure seems like a lot! What it doesn’t mention is that the nurses work up to 80 hours a week due to understaffing, in grim and difficult conditions. That is to say: they’ve earned this.

But when you’re private you can get around these measures. Thanks to Trump, you can be a “manager” and work unpaid overtime. Maybe care for the prisoners won’t change. Maybe the nurses will work exactly as long and as hard. The savings for hardworking Illinois taxpayers will come from hardworking Illinois taxpayers.

And that’s the whole ballgame. Cut costs that help millions around the state so that the very few can have their tax breaks. Create conditions so that hardworking people in a field whose unions were destroyed resent those who have held on. Make everyone work more for less.

That’s Rauner’s vision, and it’s Trump’s as well, and it is certainly Paul Ryan’s. I don’t know how the state can survive another two years without a budget. But I know the people can’t survive Rauner’s vision.

2 thoughts on “In Privatizing Prison Nurses, Bruce Rauner Shows Depth of GOP Ideology

  1. Pingback: Wednesday Good Reads: SETI, El Faro, and Labor | Shooting Irrelevance

  2. Pingback: The Flowers of Trumpism: In Illinois, The Far-Right Comes Grabbling From The Ground – Shooting Irrelevance

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