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Tim Pawlenty's campaign is off to a great, dog-whistle-y start [VIDEO]

Tim Pawlenty says he wants "open and honest" debate about... how bad political correctness is for the American healthcare system.

Tim Pawlenty says he wants "open and honest" debate about... how bad political correctness is for the American healthcare system. Twitter

Tim Pawlenty's campaign for governor is two weeks old, plenty of time for the ugly side of his "aw shucks" conservatism to shine through like the blade of a knife in a dimly lit Sam's Club. 

Tomorrow, he'll rekindle his love-affair with "Christians" who hate gay people. Yesterday, he published a short video explaining what's really wrong with the American healthcare system:  immigrants and "political correctness." 

That's two cruel little boxes checked in just three days. Near record-time. 

In T-Paw's construction, the "state is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year, paying for healthcare for people who aren't even eligible for the program." This, he says, we learned from an "explosive government audit." 

Pawlenty, speaking over a piano-laden music bed somehow even less stimulating than he is, continued: "I'll make sure people receiving government benefits are here legally, and that they actually qualify for them." 

Pawlenty went on to challenge the Democrats running for governor -- U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, state Rep. Erin Murphy (St. Paul), and State Auditor Rebecca Otto -- that if they "think people who are here ilegally should keep getting government hand-outs they're not entitled to, just say it, so we can have an open and honest debate."

Right, "open and honest debate," that's what Pawlenty wants. Because that's what happens when you call people out by @ing them on Twitter.

The audit he's referencing looked at 157 Minnesotans receiving either Mecical Assistance (our state's Medicaid program) or MinnesotaCare benefits during a three-month period in 2015. Of those, around 30 percent were found to be receiving benefits they didn't qualify for. (An internal Department of Human Services audit has suggested the percent of ineligible enrollees is about half that much.)

Auditors extrapolated that small sample size out over the whole state to suggest Minnesota might be spending as much as $500 million a year in undue benefits. Key word: might.

From a Pioneer Press story about the audit: 

Cecile Ferkul, the deputy legislative auditor, cautioned that her findings applied to only a specific time period and specific population. She warned against assuming the same error rate in the rest of Minnesota’s public programs or over a full calendar year.
“It may be that there’s more error in this time period than there would be in other time periods throughout the year,” Ferkul said.

What was allowing so many ineligible people to receive benefits? Mostly technical problems, according to auditors, plus the Department of Human Services' failure to verify or cross-check certain information used in eligibility determinations.

Indeed, the audit found benefits were given to people whose immigration status, Social Security number, and/or household income level was not sufficiently determined. The audit didn't prove that any of those people were undocumented immigrants; only that the state hadn't done enough to check discrepancies or missing information. 

The potential misspending the audit found for that group approached $10,000... which is less than one-ninth the amount ($94,409) that was given to people "whose income exceeded federal and state program limits." Of the total "net overpayments" documented in that audit, more than 90 percent of it went to people making too much money.

If Tim Pawlenty really wanted to cut wasteful spending, he'd be less concerned about immigrants, and more concerned -- roughly nine times as concerned -- about figuring out how to stop those payments. (Then again, since when's a Wall Street lobbyist worried about people making too much?) 

But this video's not about cutting spending, and neither is Pawlenty's nascent campaign. It's about locking up the bigot vote, and at that, he's already doing great.