Sunday, April 22, 2012

States' Rights To Screw Workers

A pillar of Republican Conservatism is that more power should rest with the states than with the federal government. The almost daily revelations about how easily the American Legislative Exchange Council - ALEC - has had its way with state legislators demonstrates exactly why conservatives want states to have power over more things.

State legislators come cheaper, for one thing. They are easier to bribe with campaign donations. And one can easily imagine that small town, part time lawmakers are more easily influenced by big time corporate lobbyists, too.

More significant, perhaps, is that state governments just don't have the power and resources the federal government has. State legislators don't have huge staffs, and at the state level there's no big multimillion dollar investigative, information gathering departments like the Congressional Budget Office, Office of the Inspector General, Congressional Research Service, or Government Accountability Office that might alert the public, and opposition legislators, to what goes on behind ALEC's closed doors.

Finally, because it operated only at the state level, ALEC has gone under the radar, out of sight of the big news organizations, until recently. There were no New York Times investigations when the Utah state legislature passed an ALEC law designed to transfer federal lands to state control, likewise with the many ALEC laws that have weakened unions or those passed in many states designed to suppress the vote of core Democratic Party voting blocks by making it more difficult to vote for the poor, the working class elderly, African Americans and other minorities.

If ALEC legislation was ever introduced in New Mexico, it's a safe bet that the Albuquerque Journal wouldn't have a clue, nor would any of the state's smaller news organizations. Has ALEC legislation been put forth here? More than likely. Have we heard about it? No.

And if the Journal did somehow find out, their editors would be more likely than those at the New York Times or MSNBC to swallow the excuses for their actions ALEC spokesmen are peddling now.

Bill and Melinda and ALEC  

Incidentally, it's not getting much play in the media but one of the donors that withdrew from ALEC, after the shadowy, anti-worker group was exposed to the light of day, was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave $375,000 to ALEC in the past two years.

Bill and Melinda like to parade around the world, appearing at news conferences staged by their publicity department, giving out tiny fractions of the billions they have gained through business practices that amount to extortion (for which they have been charged in many cases,) as if they are liberal minded, progressive thinking people.

Next time you're listening to NPR or public TV and hear their names mentioned as donors, keep in mind that not only do Bill and Melinda give money to groups like ALEC, they are busy helping destroy the public school system via the money they give to the backdoor privatization scheme called charter schools.

One the primary ways Republican Conservatism attacks public education is by blaming (unionized) teachers for all the problems of public education. That's what's behind the current mania about testing students as a way to gauge teacher effectiveness. The Gates' foundation is claiming their donations to ALEC weren't to intended to further the ALEC agenda, but in fact, the $375,000 Bill and Melinda gave to ALEC was for, according to one of their spokesmen, "providing information to ALEC-affiliated state legislators on teacher effectiveness and school finance."


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