An interesting thing is happening in American politics and policy these days. Almost two months ago, protesters in Wisconsin stood up to have their voices heard in opposition to their newly elected governor’s budget plan that would strip public employee unions of any power whatsoever, a move Governor Scott Walker (R-Koch Industries) has repeatedly called necessary to help solve the state’s looming budget crisis. It was the first salvo in a national movement by Republicans to promote their corporate agenda and eliminate individual rights and protections.
If you’ve picked up a newspaper or perused the internet in the last two months, you are surely aware of the protests that raged in the capital city of Madison. Walker insisted it was about the state’s budget, but it wasn’t. Setting the desire to strip collective bargaining rights aside, the governor’s bill includes a measure empowering his office to sell off any state owned asset to private interests without requiring the approval of the legislature, and without requiring interested parties to bid on the property. The governor can simply pick his favorite corporate interest and seal the deal with a handshake.
Through Walker’s actions we have gotten a pretty good look at the real motives behind the drastic moves Republicans want to take. And it has become abundantly clear that what Republicans are trying to force through across the country at the state and federal levels alike have nothing to do with budgetary concerns–as they insist–but everything to do with Republican and Conservative ideology and the desire to effectively neuter the Democratic Party and decimate government in general.
What we’re seeing Republicans attempt under the guise of fiscal responsibility is something far more sinister than we could possibly have imagined.
The so called budget repair bill requires that public employees contribute five percent more toward their pension, and 12% more toward their healthcare, which the unions had readily agreed to. But at the same time Governor Walker wrote in $160 million in corporate tax breaks into the bill.
In difficult fiscal times it is reasonable to ask EVERYONE to tighten their belts and contribute their fair share. Republicans are DEMANDING that workers ante up—which they’ve done—but exempting their corporate benefactors from any responsibility whatsoever. The unions in Wisconsin gave Scott Walker EVERYTHING he was asking for that was directly related to budgetary matters, yet he refused to take ‘yes’ for an answer.
This was not about the budget, and Walker proved it during his 20 minute phone call with “David Koch,” the Buffalo Beast editor who impersonated the billionaire Tea Party patron. The goal was clearly to enforce Tea Party/Conservative ideology on the entire state of Wisconsin, and worse.
It all started in Wisconsin, but it hardly ends there. Nearly identical efforts at destroying unions were pushed through the legislatures of Indiana (without success) and Ohio (successfully).
But it gets worse. Much worse. In Michigan, newly elected Governor Rick Snyder (R-Bechtel Corp.) is looking to take his power grab even further. Snyder has forwarded a bill to the senate that gives him the power to unilaterally determine whether a municipality is in dire financial straits, and to assign an “emergency financial manager” to take over and eliminate the duly elected government. The emergency financial manager would have the authority to break contracts, fire elected officials…..basically this appointed individual would become the Czar of the town, city, county, school board, etc., with virtually no accountability to anyone but the governor. The administrator could only be removed by a majority vote in Michigan’s House of Representatives and a two thirds vote in the Senate.
The Senate even removed wording put in by the House of Representatives that would have prevented control to be handed over to corporations. This means that a private company could (and likely would) become the government authority of a municipality, with zero accountability to the people who live there.
The bill has been described even by Republican supporters as “financial Martial Law.”
In Pennsylvania, newly elected Governor Tom Corbett (R-Coal Mining Industry) has done two things that have raised eyebrows: First, he appointed C. Alan Walker, a major campaign contributor, the CEO and owner of Bradford Energy and Bradford Coal, to head the Department of Community and Economic Development. According to a story by Pro Publica, Corbett’s budget gives Walker the authority to “expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.” That means Walker can bypass any existing environmental regulations and expedite permits for any project that he determines will create jobs, which is very good news for energy companies who can’t afford to be bothered by environmental safety……you know, things such as clean air to breathe, and clean water to drink.
Corbett also eliminated the state’s adultBasic health plan, which provided medical coverage to 41,000 of the state’s low-income workers, with another 500,000 people waiting in line to qualify. The program was funded by Pennsylvania’s allotment of a $200 billion settlement with Big Tobacco in 2000. The money–by law–was to be used to “make Pennsylvanians healthier and to fund the health of future generations of Pennsylvanians.” Corbett decided that the program was not financially sustainable, so he did away with it.
In Florida, newly elected governor Rick Scott (R-cuts public education funding by $1.75 billion, while simultaneously instituting $1.6 billion in corporate tax breaks.) has put forward a budget that
And it’s all being fueled by the billionaire Koch brothers, the creators of the astro-turf Tea Party movement; the money behind Americans for Prosperity; the anti-government financial warriors and owners of the largest privately held oil company in the country. Koch industries, you see, would benefit HUGELY if their anti-government efforts succeed: It would mean fewer environmental regulations, allowing their oil and chemical interests to pollute as much as they want, saving them millions of dollars in profits.
But even more poignant is the effort by Republican lawmakers to turn the responsibility of governing over to private industry. Republicans hate government, and it seems that they would like to make it disappear altogether. Government is supposed to be there to serve its people; those who cannot stand up for themselves in the face of overwhelming corporate power and greed. Government is supposed to protect its constituency from corporate overreach. It is supposed to be on the side of the people. But this latest breed of newly elected Republican lawmaker sees as its duty to promote the welfare of Big Business over the welfare of society and individual rights. And they are literally looking to put corporate interests in charge of our social welfare.
This is the world where people vote against their own best interests, where corporate greed trumps the will and welfare of the people. This is the world we now live in.