Moron is not a nice word to call someone. To call someone a moron is to call them “a very stupid person” — as Merriam Webster dutifully informs us. The hurling of such a label at someone is generally considered an ad hominem attack—one which degrades our public discourse and simply hurts feelings unnecessarily. Yet, when I saw #FloridaMorons trending on Twitter last Saturday, I viewed the usage of the term to describe the recent events in my home state of Florida during the pandemic as a vast enrichment to our national discourse. That word has been well earned during the past several months in Florida. And, in fact, the term actually perfectly encapsulates the intellectual virus which has swept my state government for years and, recently, the country. This virus is one of morons making life and death decisions in our government. As a proudly ashamed Florida Man, I’d like to tell you the story of the virus of moronic public officials in my home state. It’s a love story. It’s also a scary story. The reason why I’d like to tell it to you is because you, as a young person, get to determine its ending through your own actions. You can single-handedly deliver us all from this virus of morons in government if you’ll just do one thing after reading this column:
The First Love Story: Rick Scott and Fraud
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark”
-Shakespeare, “Sonnet 116”
Ah, if there ever was true love, it was between Rick Scott and fraud. The story of their love begins in 1994 in El Paso. It had been a remarkably good decade for Scott. He had founded the healthcare company Columbia seven years prior in El Paso and grown it aggressively in the intervening years, eventually purchasing fellow healthcare company HCA and merging the two. This business success began unraveling in 1997 when federal agents launched an investigation into apparent Medicare/Medicaid fraud at the company. Scott resigned as CEO four months after the public announcement of this investigation, and the company would later settle the case with the Department of Justice for two measly fines which amounted to a small, unassuming $1.7 billion. The public was also generously allowed to learn a few things from that settlement about that entire affair, including the following according to Politifact:
- “Columbia billed Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs for tests that were not necessary or had not been ordered by physicians”
- “The company attached false diagnosis codes to patient records to increase reimbursement to hospitals”
- “The company illegally claimed non-reimbursable marketing and advertising costs as community education”
- “Columbia billed the government for home health care visits for patients who did not qualify to receive them.”
Soon after this settlement, Scott gave a deposition in an associated civil case in which he pleaded the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions 75 times… You know, something an innocent person would do. Of course.
Fast forward eleven years, and Scott is truly thriving. He’s the newly elected governor of Florida and able to do all his favorite things — like banning the term climate change from all official state documents, but still, he always returns to his first, true love: Fraud. As Florida struggles through the aftermath of the Great Recession along with the rest of America, Scott’s administration decides in 2013 to overhaul the state’s unemployment website and awards the contract to Deloitte Consulting: “a major contractor whose high powered lobbyists at the time included Brian Ballard, the co-chair of Scott’s inaugural finance committee,” which seems y’know totally normal and above board. According to an anonymous advisor to current governor Ron Desantis (don’t worry — we’ll get to him), they design the website such that it is “about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about.” Or in other words, Scott’s administration creates a fraudulent unemployment website for political expediency.
So when our national economy shutters amid the coronavirus pandemic this year, guess what happens? 1.5 million Floridians request unemployment assistance, but only one out of every eight of those requesters get help because the entire system, predictably, crashes since it was designed by a moron fundamentally in love with committing fraud. This two-term governor and current United States senator causes Florida families to not have enough money to put any food on the table because they can’t get their government-guaranteed assistance. This Florida Moron makes a time of pandemic a time of starvation as well. It gets better though! Because, you know what Senator Scott (R-Fla.) was busy doing as the first coronavirus cases hit the United States? Running an ad in Iowa attacking Joe Biden because Scott is getting ready to run for president in 2024 and wants Trump’s support.
But is he really the moron? He beat Democratic Senator Bill Nelson by roughly 10,000 votes in 2018 and guess how many 18 to 29 year olds voted in the state of Florida in that election? Thirty seven percent out of the roughly 3 million of them. And that was considered to be a high number. I guess Bill Nelson was too boring a candidate for members of our generation in the state of Florida to vote for over the moronic fraudster who now is responsible for millions of Floridians not having enough money to buy basic goods and services after losing their jobs due to the pandemic. I guess he was too centrist to excite the base. I guess he was too old.
The Second Love Story: Ron DeSantis and Disinfectant Donald
“If you’re looking for the word that means caring about someone beyond all rationality and wanting them to have everything they want no matter how much it destroys you, it’s love. And when you love someone you just, you…you don’t stop, ever. Even when people roll their eyes, and call you crazy. Even then. Especially then. You just—you don’t give up.”
-Ted Mosby (Season 9, Episode 17 How I Met Your Mother)
If there ever was a case study in love causing you to do absolutely crazy things, it’s Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and our current president. It was clear from the start of DeSantis’s gubernatorial campaign in 2018 that he would be as blindingly loyal to Trump as possible, as demonstrated by his campaign ad in which he literally taught his baby daughter to “build the wall” with toy building blocks. DeSantis would continue to show this love for Trump as the coronavirus crisis began. As our president repeatedly downplayed the threat of the coronavirus in the early stages of this pandemic, DeSantis followed suit by not shutting down Florida’s beaches as Spring Breakers practiced the inverse of social distancing. When Trump came out pushing hydroxychloroquine as an experimental treatment for coronavirus (you know, the one that has now been shown to cause heart problems and, maybe, death), DeSantis was right there to have his back and spew the same propaganda. When Florida’s surgeon general Scott Rivskees announced at a press conference that until a vaccine is created, Floridians should continue to social distance and wear masks, Rivskees was promptly yanked out of the press conference by the governor’s office, as DeSantis once again followed in the footsteps of his love by muzzling the scientists. Of course the culmination of this genuinely almost impressive standard of moronic behavior and gleeful abdication of basic common sense was when DeSantis declared WWE (yes, the wrestling company) an essential business.
When you love someone, you do crazy things. When you love Trump, you do crazy things that lead to deaths.
Because that’s what this is really doing. As DeSantis parroted the Trump party line, unlike Republican governors with actual integrity like Mike Dewine of Ohio and Larry Hogan of Maryland, he hurt social distancing efforts and, ultimately, led to the deaths of more vulnerable individuals such as Florida’s seniors.
You see, the one thing that was missed by that hashtag was actually specificity. The Florida Morons are not just those who are refusing to practice social distancing on the beach. The Florida Morons are the elected leaders who make decisions that endanger public health — decisions so moronic that it makes one lose faith in God because of the insanity of it all or, alternatively, regain faith in God because it seems almost impossible that morons so exactly, perfectly moronic as Scott and DeSantis could have been created by random chance.
Oh, and it gets better by the way! Remember how Florida’s favorite Senator Rick Scott is gearing up for a 2024 presidential run? So is DeSantis, most likely. There has been a virus in the government of my home state for decades: Morons keep getting elected. And it will be coming to a theater near you in Nov., 2024.
Now, I know you’re of course thinking that it would be ludicrous for someone to be elected president with a history of fraud and racist statements. I know it’s preposterous that Florida would pluck another moron from its golf courses and send him to the White House … but maybe, just maybe, we should be slightly more careful in our voting.
Just as a precaution that way we’re not caught with morons governing us during our next life-altering crisis. Maybe more than just 37 percent of young voters in my state should vote. Maybe more than half of us should show up to vote in presidential elections, too. Maybe, if we do that as a generation, we can end this scary love story between our politics and morons. Maybe, if we do that, the Florida Moron meme can stay near the alligators rather than the Statehouse.
If we don’t, we’re all the real morons.
A Florida Man.
Andrew Lorenzen is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. When We’re Sixty Four runs every other Tuesday this semester.