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The first part of the interview: Representative Beth Low: Jefferson City, May 14, 2009 – part 1

SMP: In one way I thought about this vote was that at least the Senate Republicans were thinking that, you know the economy is gonna get better in two years. And therefore, you now, when we, this program is in place and as things get better it’ll get taken care of in other ways. It seemed to me that the, the Republicans in the House were literally saying we don’t think, you know, we’re gonna make this commitment and we’re gonna have to come up with it in, in two years. Or, or catch the heat cutting people again.

Representative Low: Right. And I think, and I think, I believe that the reason for that position is two fold. First, there were many members who voted in favor of the cuts in the first place, not because they had to, but because it was a great opportunity to cut a program which they saw as basically evil. and they don’t want to re-expand that program on any grounds, under any circumstances. They would like to eradicate it altogether. And saying that they don’t want to do so because of potential political consequences or because of financial consequences is an easy out for them. The reality is they ideologically disagree with the program…

SMP: What, what has been striking about that, though, is that their, and, and I’ve talked with a number of representatives who’ve said this, is that a lot of the people who voted against this are voting against the interests of the constituents in their district. Because there are some districts which this really does deeply affect, and they voted against them.

Representative Low: It’s actually pretty fascinating when you do an overlay map of, of the members of each chamber and the recipients of Medicaid services, both before the cuts and after the cuts. Without exception the districts which suffered the most cuts to, as a result of eligibility reductions, were in poor rural areas of the state.

The general perception is that those services are provided largely to an urban black population. The reality is just the opposite. The reality is that southern Missouri, particularly southwest and south central Missouri, are the areas that have the heaviest concentration of poverty, that, and people who are uninsured and qualify for Medicaid. And they’re the ones that were cut.

And this actually goes to the second reason I mentioned about why the Republicans, I believe that the Republicans in the House at least, opposed the, the re-expansion. And that is that even though their votes hurt their own constituents the most, their own constituents sent them back here afterwards. There were no political consequences for them. And so what they learned from that was that they could get away with it. And so there are, they are essentially emboldened to go even further to the right with this ideology of small government.

Ultimately change is not going to happen until, until eligible voters start participating in the process and demanding real change on health care reform. And a real safety net for those who are uninsured.

SMP: In the, in the sense of, of, you know, political engagement of constituencies though, isn’t that sometimes a function of, sometimes the, the modern techniques of campaigns which are, are sometimes designed to, to only get out the people that you know are safe for, for what, are going to support you and do whatever you can to suppress the vote in other fashion? So, if you, if you create an environment where people say, “Well, you know, government can’t do anything and I’m just not going to participate in it by voting.”

Representative Low: Right.

SMP: You, you basically…

Representative Low: Or you mobilize voters to vote on other issues.

SMP:  Wedge, wedge issues.

Representative Low: Which is, I mean, which is an interesting point to discuss about this session. The first major bill that we did this session was the jobs creation bill that was a tax credit bill for corporations. And the top, the first ten bills that we did, there was that jobs creation bill, there wasn’t another bill that we did that touched on the economy.

We’re in the greatest recession that this country has faced in seventy years and we haven’t done one other thing to deal with the economy. What we did do in those first ten bills, however, were two abortion bills.

So, what that tells me is two things. The Republican Party doesn’t have any ideas about how to fix our economy, or help us move into economic recovery. And two, they know that if they’re not going to do anything about that they better distract everyone’s attention to something that they, that they believe they can win on.

Abortion issues are difficult in Missouri because, although the majority of Missourians in a discussion of abortion and of, laws regarding abortion and birth control and family planning, the vast majority state that they support comprehensive sex education in our public schools. That’s about eighty-two per cent of the voters out there. The majority believe that abortion should remain legal with some restrictions. That’s about sixty per cent of Missourians. However, the forty per cent that does not believe that abortion should remain legal are much more likely to vote on that issue.

So you have a situation where [crosstalk] the connection…

SMP: They’re single isue, they’re single issue voters who will vote for that one issue and against every other single issue interest that they have.

Representative Low: And there are, by comparison, far fewer pro choice and moderately pro choice Missourians who will hinge their vote on that single issue. So you can be completely out of step with the majority of people in your district, even the majority of voters in your district, on abortion services and still win being pro life because the people who are voting on that issue are voting your way.

So the Republican party is out of ideas about the economy and how to move us out of this recession. So what do they do? They go to these wedge issues. We, we go to abortion, we deal with that.

We, we deal with myriad corporate issues this year. I have never seen session where we dealt with more corporate interest issues. It’s been fascinating. It has really been an, an oddly unpredictable year, so.

SMP: Thank yo very much for your time.

Representative Low: My pleasure. Any time.