What Florida woman's coffee shop debate with Rick Scott says about jobs

Cara Jennings, a former city commissioner in Lake Worth, Fla. angrily confronted the governor at Starbucks about his record on jobs and women's access to healthcare, in an encounter captured on video.

Stephen Bender/YouTube
Cara Jennings, right talks to Gov. Rick Scott (R) of Fla., in a Gainesville Starbucks in an image from a video of the encounter on Tuesday.

When a Florida woman confronted Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday in a coffee shop about his decision to decline an expansion of Medicaid, her angry words represented a rare opportunity to talk directly about the personal impact of decisions made in faraway state capitols.

“You cut Medicaid so I couldn’t get Obamacare,” Cara Jennings, a former city commissioner in Lake Worth, Fla., shouted at the governor, a Republican, as he waited for his order at a Starbucks in Gainesville, in an encounter captured on video.

Ms. Jennings then referred to Scott with an expletive, adding, “You don’t care about working people. You should be ashamed to show your face around here.”

After Scott responded by telling her that he had created a million jobs, she gestured sarcastically around the room, asking, “Who here has a great job? I was looking forward to finishing school. You really feel you have a job coming up?”

“You should, there’s plenty of jobs,” Scott responded softly.

The encounter also pointed to a disconnect between publicly stated jobs predictions and what Americans say they feel are greatly diminished economic or career prospects in recent years, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

The old image of the “middle class” as an aspirational state of being – upward mobility coupled with a measure of financial stability – hasn’t disappeared. But it’s under stress as much as at any time in the postwar era. Fewer Americans these days call themselves middle class, and many who do use that label see it as a badge of struggle as much as a badge of opportunity

While the US added 215,000 jobs in March, the number of people who want full-time work but can only find part-time jobs – which has stood at 6 million — went up 135,000 last month, according to statistics from the Department of Labor.

However, some economists have said that a slight increase in the unemployment rate – from 4.9 percent to 5 percent, along with more workers (now 63 percent) participating in the labor market – could be a more hopeful sign.

The increase could be “an indication that workers are feeling optimistic and are beginning to come off the bench and take some practice swings,” Elise Gould, a senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, told the Guardian last month.

For Jennings, a 39-year-old stay-at-home mother who works part-time, the chance to confront Scott also meant an opportunity to talk about his decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, she told ABC Action News.

“You stripped women of access to public healthcare,” Jennings says in the video as it appears Scott and his staff exit the Starbucks without their coffee.

“Shame on you, Rick Scott. We depend on those services, rich people like you don’t know what to do, when poor people like us need health services, you cut ‘em.”

After once reversing his decision, the governor declined to expand eligibility for Medicaid or let the state set up its own health insurance marketplace last year, aligning himself with Florida House lawmakers who have been stridently opposed to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Scott, a former healthcare executive, was elected in 2010 on a wave of opposition to the healthcare law. 

On Tuesday, Florida health officials settled a decade-long class-action lawsuit that alleged that the state had paid doctors so little for Medicaid services that many doctors refused to treat patients, including many children, who used the program.

Hundreds of thousands of children using Medicaid never received regular checkups while 80 percent of the children never saw a dentist, the suit alleged.

Jennings later told ABC that she was working on her laptop in the coffee shop when she spotted the governor and decided to confront him directly about the cuts to funding for Planned Parenthood. She dismissed a spokeswoman for the governor who tried to intervene, the video shows.

While the encounter stunned many in the store into silence, she says, afterwards the reaction was different. The user who took the video mutters, “Sweet!” as it ends.

“I didn’t think about whether I should do it or not,” she added. “I thought, ‘Here’s my chance to tell the governor how I feel about the horrible bill.’”

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