Archive for the ‘US politics’ Category

My ideology

I can proudly say I am a:

Post-Colonial Anarcho-Monarchist

Thoughts on US Third Parties.

This comes from watching the French election, which is a similar legislative-executive system to the US.  I will also admit to voting Green from a disgust with the US duopoly (i.e., the Democrats and Republicans) and its stranglehold on the system.

In a way Dan Savage is correct, the third parties should be running candidates lower down the ticket, in particular for the legislature. That is because a third party would be more effective in pushing its agenda there, or at least in blocking other parties from pushing theirs. It is more effective to be a spoiler/fixer in the legislature than in an election.  Third parties will become a force to be reckoned with once they demonstrate they have power, but they need to be the force to do what the obstructionists in congress have been doing. Or to thwart the obstruction.

One of the Clintonista/Democrat talking points was that the party is a coalition of various political views, but the duopoly parties are failed coalitions.  In some ways, they have become titular left-right parties, although I would argue any difference is more in appearance and relation to hot button issues (e.g. abortion and gun control [1]).  The past election showed how detrimental relying upon hot button issues is to real issues (e.g., the environment).

Third parties are good for keeping politics real. Case in point are the presidential debates which are no longer run by the League of Women Voters.  The president of the LWV, Nancy M. Neuman, denounced this action when the LWV ceased having any real control over the debates:

“It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions,” Neuman said. “The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

Neuman said that the campaigns presented the League with their debate agreement on
September 28, two weeks before the scheduled debate. The campaigns’ agreement was negotiated “behind closed doors” and vas presented to the League as “a done deal,” she said, its 16 pages of conditions not subject to negotiation.

Most objectionable to the League, Neuman said, were conditions in the agreement that gave the campaigns unprecedented control over the proceedings. Neuman called “outrageous” the campaigns’ demands that they control the selection of questioners, the composition of the audience, hall access for the press and other issues.

“The campaigns’ agreement is a closed-door masterpiece,” Neuman said. “Never in the history of the League of Women Voters have two candidates’ organizations come to us with such stringent, unyielding and self-serving demands.”

Neuman said she and the League regretted that the American people have had no real opportunities to judge the presidential nominees outside of campaign-controlled environments.

lwv.org/press-releases/league-refuses-help-perpetrate-fraud
I would that change is drastically needed in US politics, particularly its system of elections, but that will not come as long as the duopoly holds power.

I have pointed out that the Electoral College needs to be abolished, yet the fact that Clinton’s “loss” was due to her failing to secure enough votes in the Electoral College is again overlooked and substituted for blame on everything except the existence of that body (as was the case in 1990).  Both times the “losers” won the popular vote.

Of course, abolition of the Electoral College is only one thing in what is probably a long wish list of electoral reforms needed in the US:

open debates run by an impartial body like the League of Women Voters, shorter election cycles, open primaries, ranked choice voting, return of the fairness doctrine and equal time rule (Trump used the lack of it to get shitloads of free publicity), campaign finance reform–if not publicly funded campaigns, easier access to the ballot for parties, reform or abolish the electoral college, end gerrymandering, handcounted paper ballots or receipts, and I am sure that is only the beginning.

While one can dream that there will be internal change, it doesn’t seem likely since the parties still seem entrenched in the same behaviours which have led to the US political system being the disaster it is.

OK, we also need to add in media consolidation here since it is one way the “state” can get away with  form of censorship, but only allowing one message to get out.  Also controlling any opposing voices.

Any real change has to come through the system since violence will backfire and result in the wrong type of change.  Thus any dissenting parties best chance has to be to try and thwart the duopoly and use the duopoly’s power against it.

Change has to come, but it must come by using the system to gain power and then force change.

[1] This is not to say gun control is not important (or abortion), but these issues have been used to get people to vote against their interests.  Neither is one of left and right, but of public welfare and safety.

Interesting quote of the day:

From the FAIR blog:

Where media define the “center” or the “middle” tells you a lot about the worldview they are promoting. The “center” doesn’t usually indicate where most of the public is, but rather where elites have determined an appropriate middle between opposing arguments. Confusing the two concepts is common (and not an accident).

The Article in question is about the economic advice from two of the most prominent economists who have worked at the highest levels of government and academia.  On the other hand, this is a fairly telling comment as I have been seeing a lot of political terms being misused, such as “socialism” and “conservative”.  The last term being the most thoroughly brutalised of all of them.

“Conservatism”, from the Latin: conservare–“to retain”, is defined as a political and social philosophy that promotes retaining traditional social institutions. A person who follows the philosophies of conservatism is referred to as a traditionalist or conservative. Conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity. According to the 2nd Viscount Hailsham, a former chairman of the British Conservative Party, “Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself.”

To me to be a “Conservative” one must be strongly for social order and institutions while not accepting change to that order without good reason.

Of course, the definition is used about has this caveat:

There is no single set of policies that are universally regarded as conservative, because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Thus, conservatives from different parts of the world – each upholding their respective traditions – may disagree on a wide range of issues.

I am of the opinion that the precedent set in the US by its use of force to obtain independence from Britain (a decidedly non-conservative act) has left its mark on US politics to bring about what I call the “reality challenged right”.  Although, one could also add that other factors are also afoot to create the “reality challenged right”.

The main characteristic of this is the belief in the use of force in politics, which is not found in most civilised nations.  In fact, that is probably the most obvious characteristic of this movement.

Another characteristic is being fact adverse, with the most frightening aspect being the failure to address climate change as news comes that the atmospheric level of a carbon dioxide has reached a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.  Scientists believe the rise in atmospheric Carbon Dioxide portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

I have to admit that I find this movement quite frightening and am not sure how it could have been allowed to arise, but the fact that such a disastrous political faction could be given any level of credibility, let alone called “Conservative”, boggles my mind.

Joe Walsh’s idiotic and offensive comment.

ImageI try to avoid US politics these days, but I have to admit that hearing someone who never served in the military call someone who was wounded in combat not a true hero really pisses me off.

During the First World War, women used to hand out white feather for cowardice, there was one woman who tried to hand someone a feather on a tram, but he couldn’t get up to accept it since he lost both legs in combat.

Of course, the woman was suitably chastened.

I only hope that a similar humiliation awaits Walsh.

I have to admit to supporting Duckworth now, not that it would have taken me too much of a push given that Walsh is offensive in more than one way to me.

The rightward trend in US politics.

Sure it’s a cartoon, but Ted Rall hits the nail on the head:

That about says it all…

or why I hate US elections and am happy that I have somewhat insulated myself from them:

Posted 03/05/2012 by lacithedog in US Election, US Elections, US politics

Nimrata, you are such a shame!

Nimrata, why are you ashamed of being Indian?

I look at this picture and you look like a Farangi (If I were using Cantonese, the word that comes to mind is “gweilo”).  Did they lighten your skin up? Did they Photoshop you to change your looks?

Sikhism is a noble religion.  Why did you give up the kirpan for guns?  The symbolism of the kirpan is much more productive than the ridiculous chant of “gun rights” that people mindlessly chant as a mantra in your neck of the woods.

Isn’t ahimsa a better principle to live by?

Not to mention, I have a thing for Indian Food and music.  Bollywood movies are over the top, but what the heck, they are fun. I seriously think you should choreograph your next speech as a Bollywood dance routine!

So, does your American Story mean that you have to renounce Indian Culture to fit in?  Does it mean that you have to hide how you look and assimilate into the culture?  Why can’t you be proud of your Sikh heritage?  Or do you associate that with corner shops rather than being a governor?

Remember Margaret Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter when you think such thoughts! Not to mention that your father was a doctor.

I don’t know, Nimrata, but this picture scares me quite a bit about the US.  Does one have to assimilate and lose their heritage to belong to that society?  Is historic amnesia part of the American nightmare?  Does one need to become a White, Christian to be a proper American?

Somehow, all that seems wrong.  The US is headed in the wrong direction–not that I really need to care about that myself.  The society I live in is working at living with its diversity and moving forward.

What I see in the US and from its media, shows that it is a society that is moving backward to a world that I don’t want to live in. I am glad to have left it.

You should say the Punjabi equivalent of “Jai Ho”, not “Can’t is not an Option”


I will add as a postscript that my copy of Flora Steel and Grace Gardiner’s The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook, which was a guide for British ladies living in Colonial India first published in 1888 on how to live in that society, just arrived today.  That seems rather fitting to add that bit of the Empire to end this post.  Maybe Nimrata is trying to be a Memsab!

Counterproductive politics

There is an interesting interview on today’s Newshour about the rise of the religious right in the US. One of the interviewees points out that the number of evangelical Christians in the US is declining due to its involvement in religion.

I’ve found that gunloon comments tend to reinforce my belief that the US needs gun control due to the fact that these people are not responsible and have no idea of what right the Second Amendment was intended on protecting. Add in that the institution of militia is pretty much an anachronism. In fact, the militia was irrelevant at the time of the Revolution (see Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations).

Anyway, we have already seen that the Heller-McDonald decisions have nor resulted in much in roads being made in the field of gun rights. And as the word of Revolution go “if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t going to make with anyone anyhow”.

Perhaps saying that a variant of “Political Power comes from the barrel of a gun” will backfire on them as badly as failing to heed that religion and politics should not be intertwined.

Americans Elect: Democracy in the Internet Age crosspost from Failed Empire

I couldn’t have said it better:

Americans Elect: Democracy in the Internet Age

Posted by Andrew B. on August 9, 2011

This is exactly the kind of development we need to get us out of the current One Party State:

Though many feel we are stuck with a two-party system after numerous attempts to elect a viable alternative candidate have failed, a new Internet-based political movement is emerging. The goal? To put a presidential nomination on the 2012 ballot derived completely from open voting on the Internet. Called Americans Elect, the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization isn’t a traditional new political party, although it must register as one. Instead, it’s a way to nominate candidates in a more democratic fashion. So far, the group has submitted the required number of signatures to put a nomination on the ballot in eight states and has plans to be on 18 by year’s end. Democratic representation is an old idea that modern technology is reinventing, and the movement has the potential to change American politics forever…and that means 2012 will be an even wackier election year than it is already shaping up to be.

So how does one vote for an Americans Elect candidate?

Visit Americans Elect to find out more.

Who Spent the Social Security Trust Fund Money?

Cross posted from http://penigma.blogspot.com/2011/03/who-spent-social-security-trust-fund.html with permission:

Social Security should have a surplus. Republicans and Tea Partiers, like Rand Paul, tell us the money was spent, and they want to change benefits and the retirement age. They hate what they like to call ‘entitlements’; they never liked them. Like unions, they have been looking for pretexts to get rid of it.

So……….where is the money, and who spent it? Having spent it, why the hell do they think it is acceptable to simply say, so sad, too bad, and for the government not to pay it back?

Lets take a look at when the money started being spent. That would take us back to George H.W. Bush. It continued under the next president, Bill Clinton; but to his credit, Clinton presided over a booming economy, and handed over a surplus to the Shrub, George ‘Dubya’ Bush. And that appears to be where the spending went nuts, blowing the balance of the Social Security money with his wars and most of all, with his ill-conceived tax cuts —- the ones that benefit the wealthy very few, so very, very much more than anyone else.
Let me remind you how much the Democrats had a different taxation program than do the Republicans – and Tea Partiers:

So lets take a look at the money, the missing money, and who paid in that money. Because the people who paid in that money to Social Security have every right to be angry, and to demand that the money be repaid rather than be told they are out of luck.

That would be……..the baby boomers. There are quite a lot of baby boomers, they are no small demographic. They are aging, and as they do, they are a force to be reckoned with at the ballot box.

To reprise the history:

“The baby boomers have contributed more to Social Security than any other generation,” says economist Allen W. Smith. “They have prepaid the cost of their own retirement, in addition to paying the cost of the generation that preceded them.”

Smith points out that the baby boomers have kept their end of the bargain, which was proposed by the Greenspan Commission and enacted into law in 1983. “The higher taxes that were part of the 1983 ‘solution’ to the baby boomer problem have generated the annual Social Security surpluses anticipated so far, and they will continue to do so until 2018,” Smith said.

According to Smith, by 2018, the baby boomers will have paid enough extra taxes to have generated a $3.7 trillion reserve in the trust fund, which would be sufficient to pay full benefits until 2042 when the youngest of the boomers would be 78 years old.

“Despite these promises, President Bush has been raiding the trust fund since he took office,” Smith said, “and he no longer tries to conceal what he has done. In an effort to muster support for his privatization proposal, he has been openly admitting to the raiding of the fund.”

“There may be ‘no trust’ when it comes to Bush’s handling of Social Security money,” Smith argued, “but there most certainly is a trust fund. That fund is empty today because President Bush has used the money to pay for tax cuts, the war in Iraq, and many other programs. So, instead of trying to blame the baby boomers for Social Security’s current problems, Bush should stop spending Social Security money on other programs and repay the money he has already spent.”

As one of those who has been contributing those higher tax contributions into that trust fund, I want that money. I will not accept being told “too bad we spent it, you are S O L” by Republicans and Tea Partiers like Rand Paul. Pay it back, pay it back NOW, and if that means you have to end the damnable Bush Tax Cuts to the wealthy to do that, I don’t care. The wealthy may try to keep you on a short leash, Rand Paul, but that is your problem, and your cronies problem.

Don’t even think about making it my problem. I vote. I write. I am willing along with the baby boomers to go boom on your behind.

Let that spending of the Social Security Trust Fund become part of the George W. Bush failed presidential legacy. Let the Boomers take the lead in condemning him to history; I’m sure we won’t be the last, or the only ones to do so. And Tea Partiers, like Rand Paul? Be on notice, about that missing money? Better start coming up with ways to pay it back, not change the goal posts on us.

The Fierce Urgency of Now!

I heard an interesting programme on The BBC World service called The Forum, where they were discussing the long term v. the short term which raised some very interesting issues regarding the US economy and capitalism. Not that many of the things they talked about were revelations, since I say them quite a bit, but they were something which needed to be said somewhere other than this blog. The problem is that USMSM is far too simplistic, even US Public Broadcasting which imagines that it is on par with the BBC.

Illustration by Emily Kasriel: short term thinking imprisoning capitalism and justice.

First off, the US media simplifies the issues, in particular, regarding the US budget. There is too much of an emphasis on making things black and white when the world exists in 256 greyscale. The same goes to US v. THEM in the myriad versions of that theme. Especially when one puts the US v. THEM in religious context. That makes it that WE are RIGHT and THEY are EVIL in a sense of religious fervour. This is why republican lawmakers can take an oath promising “no new taxes” even if it leads to economic Armageddon.

In this viewpoint, the enemy is weak and WE are strong. Compromise is a sign of weakness, not a virtue. So, the lawmakers left and right are obstinate in their positions and not dealing with the issues.  It’s easier to say something is “socialism” and not address the issue than deal with the complicated problems which face the United States.   US Politics has become soundbites:  Bumper Sticker solutions to complicated problems.  Simplistic solutions are meaningless.

You can’t have a sustainable economy when 5-10% of the people own 95% of the assets. The people who own most of the assets will topple the economy if they see it in their best interest.  They are not interested in the public at large.  That is part of the reason that “trickle-down”, “supply side economics”, or whatever you want to call it does not work.  That theory does not factor in greed and selfishness. Anything that addresses the inequality is labelled “Socialism”, or worse, which leads the low information voter to vote against their self-interest.

Michelle Alexander raises some interesting issues on the War on Drugs, in particular that this results in black men losing the civil rights that were gained forty years ago: voting, serving on juries, etcetera. Furthermore, drug crime is on the wain, yet this get tough on crime rhetoric works to channel the systemic racism in the US. This is because “crime” is a code word for “inner city blacks”. Even though Barack Obama is president, there is still systemic racism in the United States.

Next weeks Forum sounds pretty good as well—it’s about political elites!  Of course, that’s another topic that sets me off which is related to this post as well.  Although, the write up says that this programme is about dictators, whereas the US is an oligarchy posing as a democracy.  The masses have been dulled so far into a stupor that they don’t see this.

See also:
BBC World service’s The Forum: 23/07/2011
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO–The Right Wing Agenda

Six versus Seventy!

The US media is full of talk about a budget being proposed by The US Sentate’s “Gang of Six”, yet the media tends to neglect that there is a gang of Seventy–The US Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). These are the Democrats in the House who have already vowed to oppose any deal which cuts benefits in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Congressman Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of CPC has pointed out that:

“Our Gang of Seventy-plus has the Gang of Six completely outnumbered, and with Republicans not voting for any package, period, because of their opposition to a functional economy. The House Democrats hold the key to whatever plan can pass Congress.”

Grijalva and his allies point to the CPC People’s Budget as an alternative more in sync with what people want and the economy needs—a budget that calls for shared sacrifice. For example, 66 percent of Americans favor raising income tax rates on those making more than $250,000 and 67 percent support raising the wage cap for Social Security taxes. Both of these measures are included in the CPC budget. It’s a budget that also offers sensible cuts to military spending run amok, new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires, and an investment of $1.45 trillion in job creation, education, clean energy, broadband infrastructure, housing, and R&D. And it does all of this while achieving a lower debt-to-GDP ration in 2020 than the widely praised—praised by the elite, that is— budget proposal from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan.

In contrast, the Gang of Six proposal shafts those who have already borne so much of the burden of the financial crisis and its fallout—lost pensions, lost homes, lost wealth—while the very people who brought the economy to its knees through their recklessness make out like banksters and bandits. In fact, at a time of inequality akin to that of the Gilded Age, the top marginal tax rate would be lowered—lowered!—to 23 to 29 percent, while there would be massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), notes that JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein would save approximately $2 million to $3 million on their tax bills. But in twenty years, a 90-year-old living on a Social Security income of $15,000 would lose more than $1,200 a year in benefits.

How’s that a “bargain” for this nation and who exactly finds it “grand”?

All along, the alternatives that reflect the popular idea of shared sacrifice have been marginalized—by the political establishment (and, tragically, the Democratic leadership) and the corporate media. That’s one reason we are where we are in terms of the shape of this budget deal, where a ludicrous moral equivalence is being drawn between an increase in capital gains or carried interest tax and cuts in the very programs that have brought security and dignity to millions of Americans when they need it the most.

This is not about left and right. This is about right and wrong. And that’s something the political and media establishment just don’t seem to get.

See:
Congressional Progressive Caucus : FY2012 Progressive Budget

Media Malpractice on the Debt Debate

The convention in mainstream journalism is that the new stories give you the facts, and the columnists give you their opinions (hopefully backed by facts). But in the coverage over the debt ceiling and budget debates sometimes you’re better off heading straight to the columns. Today offers a good example. In the Washington Post (7/15/11), Ezra Klein lays out the political dynamic that is rarely explained. As Klein writes, the White House has decided to:

offer Republicans a deal that is not only much farther to the right than anyone had predicted, but also much farther to the right than most realize. In addition to the rise in the Medicare eligibility age and the cuts to Social Security and the minimal amount of revenue, it would cut discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion, which is an absolutely massive attack on that category of spending.

In the New York Times (7/15/11), Paul Krugman writes:

President Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to sign on to a deficit-reduction deal that consists overwhelmingly of spending cuts, and includes draconian cuts in key social programs, up to and including a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility. These are extraordinary concessions. As the Times’s Nate Silver points out, the president has offered deals that are far to the right of what the average American voter prefers — in fact, if anything, they’re a bit to the right of what the average Republican voter prefers!

The conventional coverage–which pits Obama’s offer against Republican intransigence–tends to gloss over these facts. The front-page article in the Times today by Jackie Calmes explains the debate as being between Obama’s desire to raise taxes on the wealthy and cut the deficit, while Republicans prefer “smaller government” and lower taxes. It quotes Sen. John McCain saying that the “president keeps talking about spending more money”–with no explanation that Obama is actually proposing to reduce non-security domestic federal spending as a percentage of GDP to its lowest level in 50 years.

These are the limits in the media debate. The fact that the public would seem to prefer an entirely different type of budget deal is a non-factor. The fact that such plans exist–the People’s Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for instance–is all but ignored by the corporate media. Senate Democrats have floated a similar plan. A competent press corps would cover these proposals, if only for the sake of telling citizens that such options are available–that reducing the long-term deficit is possible without slashing spending on programs that people support.

But the media would much prefer a budget debate that pits Obama’s Republican-leaning plan against the Republicans who oppose that plan. Unfortunately, there is another budget proposal coming from the left which get absolutely no play in the USMSM (includes “Public Broadcasting”). This People’s Budget is the exact antithesis of what is being mentioned in USMSM. The People’s Budget eliminates the deficit in 10 years, puts Americans back to work and restores our economic competitiveness. Additionally, this budget protects Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and responsibly eliminates the deficit by targeting its main drivers: the Bush Tax Cuts, the wars overseas, and the causes and effects of the recent recession.

Our Budget Puts America Back to Work & Restores America’s Competitiveness
• Trains teachers and restores schools; rebuilds roads and bridges and ensures that users help pay for them
• Invests in job creation, clean energy and broadband infrastructure, housing and R&D programs

Our Budget Creates a Fairer Tax System
• Ends the recently passed upper-income tax cuts and lets Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of 2012
• Extends tax credits for the middle class, families, and students
• Creates new tax brackets that range from 45% starting at $1 million to 49% for $1 billion or more
• Implements a progressive estate tax
• Eliminates corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies; closes loopholes for multinational corporations
• Enacts a financial crisis responsibility fee and a financial speculation tax on derivatives and foreign exchange

Our Budget Protects Health
• Enacts a health care public option and negotiates prescription payments with pharmaceutical companies
• Prevents any cuts to Medicare physician payments for a decade

Our Budget Safeguards Social Security for the Next 75 Years
• Eliminates the individual Social Security payroll cap to make sure upper income earners pay their fair share
• Increases benefits based on higher contributions on the employee side

Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home
• Responsibly ends our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to leave America more secure both home and abroad
• Cuts defense spending by reducing conventional forces, procurement, and costly R&D programs

Our Budget’s Bottom Line
• Deficit reduction of $5.6 trillion
• Spending cuts of $1.7 trillion
• Revenue increase of $3.9 trillion
• Public investment $1.7 trillion

But as the Economist pointed out: “Mr Ryan’s plan adds (by its own claims) $6 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, but promises to balance the budget by sometime in the 2030s by cutting programmes for the poor and the elderly. The Progressive Caucus’s plan would (by its own claims) balance the budget by 2021 by cutting defence spending and raising taxes, mainly on rich people.”

Naturally, the Koch Brothers and their ilk wouldn’t approve of such a budget, which is why it gets no air time. Obama is the perfect sell out who follows the line of his big donors.

But, the real problem is that the people who are screaming about the government will be screaming even louder when they see they have been sold out by their government.

see also:
Media Malpractice on the Debt Debate
Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Fiscal Year 2012
The courageous Progressive Caucus budget

Koch Brothers, ALEC and Their Corporate Allies Plan to Privatize Government

It was only a day after I learned of the existance of ALEC (the  American Legislative Exchange Council) and made the post Who is ALEC? that I learn about Truthout’s Article  Koch Brothers, ALEC and Their Corporate Allies Plan to Privatize Government.   Unfortunately, the US has the dollar rather than the Pound Sterling or I would refer to what is going on in the same vein as the Genesis Album Selling England by the Pound since that is pretty much what has been going on for the past 30+ years in US Politics (and to some extent the same in Britain).  Unlike England, there is less sympathy for government functions, or at least so it appears in the heavily controlled US media.

The Truthout article explains how ALEC works.  ALEC contends that government agencies have an unfair monopoly on public goods and services. To change that situation, it has created a policy initiative to counter what it calls “Publicopoly.” ALEC’s stated aim is to provide “more effective, efficient government” via privatization—that is, the shifting of government functions to the private sector. Of course, that makes a shift from Publicopoly to either Monopoly or Oligopoly with little or no public control over those new private entities.

ALEC came to the public’s attention in February and March with the culmination of the fight over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill AB 11, which sought to curtail the collective bargaining rights of government employees and thus disempower Wisconsin’s public sector unions. When on February 23 the Buffalo Beast published recordings and transcripts of a prank call to Walker from a Beast reporter posing as billionaire GOP donor David Koch, it became apparent how intimately involved brothers David and Charles Koch were in Walker’s efforts to break public sector unions.

Subsequently, bloggers and editorialists began batting around possible scenarios involving myriad right-wing public policy foundations funded by the Koch brothers and proceeds of Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries (and other Koch-controlled corporations). During such speculation, one name arose as the favorite villain behind the multitude of bills aimed squarely at public employee unions. That name was ALEC.

On February 25, 2011, Florida State Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) introduced HB 1021. The bill sought to curtail the political power of unions by prohibiting public employers from deducting any amount from an employee’s pay for use by an employee organization (i.e., union dues) or for any political activity (i.e., the portion of union dues used for lobbying or for supporting candidates for office). Moreover, HB 1021 stated that, should a union seek to use any portion of dues independently collected from members for political activity, the union must obtain annual written authorization from each member.

In effect, this bill defunds public-sector unions—like AFSCME, SEIU, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—by making the collection of member dues an onerous, costly task. With public-sector unions denatured, they would no longer be able to stand in the way of radical free marketeers who plan to profit from the privatization of public services.

Given the similarities between HB 1021 and a rash of like-minded bills in states across the country, including Wisconsin, on March 30 a public records request was sent to Dorworth’s office seeking copies of all documents pertaining to the writing of HB 1021, including copies of any pieces of model legislation the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have provided.

Within an hour of submitting this request, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon’s (R-Winter Park) Communications Director Katherine Betta responded: “We received a note from Representative Dorworth’s office regarding your request for records relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council and HB 1021. Please note that Mr. Dorworth’s legislative offices did not receive any materials from ALEC relating to this bill or any ‘model legislation’ from other states.”

But two weeks later Dorworth’s office delivered 87 pages of documents, mostly bill drafts and emails, detailing the evolution of what was to become HB 1021. Buried at the bottom of the stack was an 11-page bundle of neatly typed material, labeled “Paycheck Protection,” which consisted of three pieces of model legislation, with the words “Copyright, ALEC” at the end of each.

Dorworth legislative assistant Carolyn Johnson claims that, although Dorworth is an ALEC member, neither she nor her boss have any idea how the ALEC model legislation found its way into Dorworth’s office. Dorworth could not be reached for comment.

Though the specifics are secret and “restricted to members,” ALEC openly advocates privatizing public education, transportation and the regulation of public health, consumer safety and environmental quality including bringing in corporations to administer:

• Foster care, adoption services and child support payment processing.

• School support services such as cafeteria meals, custodial staff and transportation.

• Highway systems, with toll roads presented as a shining example.

• Surveiling and detaining convicted criminals.

• Ensuring the quality of wastewater treatment, drinking water, and solid waste services and facilities.

Of course, there are myriads of horror stories regarding the privatisation of the Penal System. such as Luzerne County, PA’s Kids for cash scandal and Googling Private Prisons Scam will net loads of stories like this one: What did Torrey Westrom think he was saving with private prison proposal? or Private Prison Promises Leave Texas Towns In Trouble.  The prison priavtisations should serve as a large glaring warning of the minefield which privatising governmental functions will bring.

Giving these corporations regulatory powers over environmental quality is also puting the fox in charge of the Chicken coop.  The Koch companies have a notorious environmental record. And is the US public so damaged as far as short term memory goes to have forgotten the BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That in and of itself should be even more of a warning than the prison privatisations.

Quite frankly, there are certain functions that governments do a whole lot better than private enterprise, yet the US public is being sold a duff bill of goods that privatising government.  The worst part of it is that the people won’t realise how badly they have been shafted until after the damage has been done.

Additionally, there is the usual US historic ignorance that the panic of 1837 was caused in part by the selling of government assets.  This message from that time should be heeded by today’s US Citizens:

Although the excitement of 1839 did not equal that of 1837, there was a duller and completer despondency. It was at last known that the recuperative power of even our own proud and bounding country had limits. Years were yet necessary to a recovery.

Even more importantly, the US public should be asking who is controlling the message that they hear from the corporately controlled MSM (which includes Public Broadcasting which is beholden by underwriting, or commercials by any other name). The US is heading down a very dangerous path, yet few people are doing anything about it.

Who is ALEC?

Few have ever heard of it, but the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is the ultimate smoke filled back room.

On the surface, ALEC’s membership is mostly comprised of thousands of state legislators. Each pays a nominal membership fee in order to attend ALEC retreats and receive model legislation. ALEC’s corporate contributors, on the other hand, pay a king’s ransom to gain access to legislators and distribute their corporate-crafted legislation.

So, while the membership appears to be public sector, the bankroll is almost entirely private sector, including the usual suspects–the Koch Brothers. In fact, public sector membership dues account for only around one percent of ALEC’s annual revenues. ALEC claims to be nonpartisan, but in fact its free-market, pro-business mission is clear.

The result has been a consistent pipeline of special interest legislation being funneled into state capitols. Thanks to ALEC, 826 bills were introduced in the states in 2009 and 115 were enacted into law.

Behind the scenes at ALEC, the nuts and bolts of lobbying and crafting legislation is done by large corporate defense firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon. A law firm with strong ties to the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries, it has long used ALEC’s ability to get a wide swath of state laws enacted to further the interests of its corporate clients.

ALEC’s campaigns and model legislation have run the gamut of issues, but all have either protected or promoted a corporate revenue stream, often at the expense of consumers. For example, ALEC has worked on behalf of:

  • Oil companies to undermine climate change proponents;
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers, arguing that states should be banned from importing prescription drugs;
  • Telecom firms to block local authorities from offering cheap or free municipally-owned broadband;
  • Insurance companies to prevent state insurance commissioners from requiring insurers to meet strengthened accounting and auditing rules;
  • Big banks, recommending that seniors be forced to give up their homes via reverse mortgages in order to receive Medicaid;
  • The asbestos industry, trying to shut the courthouse door to Americans suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases; and,
  • Enron to deregulate the utility industries, which eventually caused the U.S. to lose what the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) estimated as $5 trillion in market value.

The Koch Brothers, big tobacco, insurance companies, and the drug industry: all behind the shadowy corporate front group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). On the surface, ALEC is mostly comprised of thousands of state legislators, each paying a nominal fee to attend ALEC retreats and receive model legislation. In reality, corporations pay ALEC a king’s ransom to access legislators to distribute radical legislation that puts corporate interests over American workers and consumers.

See also:

ALEC Exposed: Rigging Elections

ALECWatch
Koch Brothers, ALEC and Their Corporate Allies Plan to Privatize Government