So you probably just read that and thought, “Man, how could they possibly be more ridiculous?” And then Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee bolted upright and said, “Hold my steer.”
You see, Lee is refusing to offer incentives such as cash payments to encourage people to save their own lives, but his tune changes considerably when it comes to his sacred cows:
Tennessee’s Herd Health program began in 2019 under Lee, whose family business, Triple L Ranch, breeds Polled Hereford cattle. The state currently reimburses participating farmers up to $1,500 for vaccinating their herds, handing out $492,561 over the past two fiscal years, according to documents from the Tennessee Agriculture Department.
Lee, who so far has avoided drawing a serious Republican primary challenge in his 2022 reelection bid, has been accused of complacency in the face of the deadly pandemic. Tennessee’s vaccination rates for Covid-19 hover at 39 percent of its total population, versus over 49 percent nationally for the fully vaccinated. The state’s Covid hospitalizations have more than tripled over the past three weeks and infections have increased more than five-fold.
So if you’re a Tennessee resident and want to get paid for doing the right thing (granted, you should do the right thing anyway, but some people apparently need a nudge), you may have to try something like this …
Just make sure you’re in the hind section if you want to get the full dose.
As the AP reported, Lee has pooh-poohed incentivizing Tennessee residents to prevent the further spread of a (now dangerously mutated) virus that’s already killed nearly 630,000 Americans. In a speech to the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association on Friday, Lee said he didn’t think incentives would be effective, adding, “I don’t think that’s the role of government. The role of government is to make it available and then to encourage folks to get a vaccine.”
In a statement, Lee spokesperson Casey Black also tried to explain away the apparent contradiction: “Tennesseans have every incentive to get the Covid-19 vaccine—it’s free and available in every corner of the state with virtually no wait. While a veterinarian can weigh in on safely raising cattle for consumption, the state will continue to provide human Tennesseans with Covid-19 vaccine information and access.”
Okay, no one was saying that cows are humans’ equal when it comes to responsibly choosing an appropriate health regimen for themselves—though, granted, reading through some of my anti-vaxxer family members’ DMs might give you that impression.
“Information and access” is obviously not enough when there’s so much disinformation coursing through our body politic’s veins. Indeed, the best thing that could happen for our reeling country right now would be if Tucker Carlson finally choked to death on his own vomit in a Spirit Halloween My Little Pony costume. (Come on, you know that’s coming.) But barring that, we need to do everything in our power, short of outright coercion, to get shots in arms.
Unfortunately, not only is Tennessee not doing that, they’re frantically pulling in the opposite direction.
More recently, Lee’s administration has been under fire after the state’s vaccination chief was terminated in what she has called an attempt to appease GOP legislators who were outraged over Covid-19 vaccination outreach to minors. At a hearing in June, one Republican lawmaker called an ad promoting vaccination for teenagers “reprehensible” and some went so far as to suggest they might pull the Health Department’s funding.
Hey, great idea! In the middle of the biggest public health crisis in 100 years, let’s take a big steaming dookie on the one proven tool that can actually get us out of this mess.
I’m tempted to say people like Lee are cutting off their nose to spite their face, but it’s actually much worse than that. They’re killing their own people (or at the very least allowing them to die) for no clear reason whatsoever.
But, hey, as long as his cows are fine then all is right with the world, eh?
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