Friday 30 November 2012

Rick Scott

Rick Scott (otherwise known as Richard Lynn Scott) is the governor of Florida. For my money, he is proof that it’s not Dicks you have to watch out for but Ricks. Rick Scott, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum. Hmmmm, I sense a pattern.

Anyway, Rick (who will turn 60 this Saturday, December 1) is a businessman and the current governor of Florida. He is originally from the Midwest: born in Bloomington, Indiana, he grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Rick is largely a self-made man. His parents were not wealthy (his father was a truck driver and his mother a store clerk) and Rick joined the Navy and went to college on the G.I. Bill. Rick then attended law school and practiced law for several years in Texas. In the late 1980s, Rick and another man (Richard Rainwater) created Columbia Hospital Corporation and purchased some hospitals in El Paso. Finances turned around at those hospitals and things just got better from there. Columbia purchased more hospitals, even buying out corporations that already owned and managed whole strings of hospitals. In 1994, Columbia purchased the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). The company, Columbia/HCA, purchased more “chains” and by 1997 was “the world's largest health care provider with more than 340 hospitals, 130 surgery centers, and 550 home health locations in 38 states and two foreign countries”^  Wow.

But 1997 wasn’t all fun and games. The FBI, IRS, and Department of Health and Human Services began to investigate the company for fraud. The Board of Directors requested that Rick resign, which he did to the tune of a $9.88 million settlement and 10 million shares of stock (companies have that much stock to give to one person?). The stock was worth over $350 million.^ By 2002 the government’s case was wrapped up. Columbia/HCA (by then just going by HCA) paid over $2 billion in settlements, as penalty for overcharging the government on Medicare, making illegal deals, and a host of other fraudulent practices.   

But Rick persevered. He moved to Florida, started his own investment firm, and became a venture capitalist. He continued to dabble in the financial side of healthcare and has invested in pharmacies.

In 2010, Rick ran for governor in Florida as a Republican. Obviously, he won. His notable acts thus far include rejecting federal money to build high-speed railroads and signing a bill requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test. He claimed a higher percentage of people on welfare use drugs than in the non-welfare-receiving population, but data has not proven this assertion true.^


But old Rick is on my shit list because of the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform. Rick established this group in May because he “has said he wants to run Florida’s education system more like a business.”* One of the recommendations of this fine group is that universities should charge differential tuition. In-state tuition would be kept constant for strategic major for three years; other majors (such as the humanities) would be subject to different (presumably increasing) tuition rates. Naturally the idea is that higher tuition would drive people away from humanities majors. That is lame.

Also lame is the amount of “research” this group apparently did.

Task force chairman Dale Brill, Florida Chamber Foundation president and Scott’s appointee to the group, said the recommendations were based on “logic,” rather than research into which degree programs have proven to be the most beneficial to individual students and state economies. Defining “strategic” and “non-strategic” programs ultimately will be the work of the state legislature, he said.”

I believe “logic” is code for assumptions.

Anyway, I knew back in high school that I wanted to major in history, and I would not have appreciated having to pay extra for the privilege. Forcing people into majors (and then jobs) they don’t want seems to be a recipe for disaster. Plus, shouldn’t we allow the free market to dictate things? If college students really want to avoid unemployment and/or earn high salaries, they will gravitate towards science-y majors. Don’t punish those of us who are prepared to earn less money in order to spend our lives doing what we truly love.

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