Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The GOP's plan to wipe out the middle class in your state

Where the red-state model is headed. 
Billionaire-backed Republicans are turning their weapons of mass economic destruction on the states, since they failed to win the presidency and control of the Senate.

The GOP would have even lost control of the House of Representatives had it not been for the magic of gerrymandering. After all, 1.1 million more Americans voted for Democratic House candidates than Republicans.

Extremist Republicans have a problem: Most Americans don't want to wipe out the middle class the way they do. So the GOP has come up with a message that the way to make people rich is to first make them poor.

Most people don't buy that either. But enough people buy it that Republicans can win control of state governments through a combination of gerrymandering, voter suppression and vast amounts of corporate-funded propaganda.

And once these extremists do take control of state government, watch out.

Wisconsin Job-killer Gov. Scott Walker  is perhaps the poster boy for what's called the red-state strategy. With the help of a Republican (i.e., gerrymandered) Legislature, Walker slashed public investment, weakened collective bargaining rights, gave corporations more power to harm consumers without redress and fired thousands of workers. Business activity in Wisconsin is sputtering, the Center for Media and Democracy reports. Wisconsin lags the rest of the nation in job creation, incomes are falling and corruption scandals are engulfing the government. (But hey, the Koch brothers are happy.)

It's known as the red-state model.It's also known as austerity, and it's destroying Europe's economy right now.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that since the Great Recession began in 2008, states cut billions from their budgets and hundreds of thousands from their payrolls:
States have been forced to close enormous budget shortfalls totaling nearly $600 billion since the 2009 fiscal year.  The actions that states have taken to close these budget gaps, primarily spending cuts, have imposed a significant drag on the economic recovery.  Since the recession took hold in August 2008, state and local governments have shed 675,000 jobs.
Raising revenue from the rich is off the table. From the poor, not so much. In state after state, GOP governors want to end income and corporate taxes (which helps the rich) and raise the sales tax (which hurts the poor):
Lynn Parramore describes the red-state model in a recent Alternet article:
... it’s called Mississippi. Or Texas. Or any number of states characterized by low public investment, worker abuse, environmental degradation, educational backwardness, high rates of unwanted pregnancy, poor health, and so on... 
In Kansas, the Wall Street Journal reports that Governor Sam Brownback is aiming to up his profile “by turning Kansas into what he calls Exhibit A for how sharp cuts in taxes and government spending can generate jobs, wean residents off public aid and spur economic growth.” In remarks quoted in the same article, Brownback announced that "My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, 'See, we've got a different way, and it works.’ "
Speaking of Mississippi, a bill passed the House to preempt local laws requiring higher minimum or living wages as well as paid sick days. Louisiana last year passed a bill to ban local laws requiring paid sick days.

Those two perennial outlier states aren't the only ones. Maine's Tea Party Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill that rolled back child labor laws. Last year Florida lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to make laws preventing wage theft illegal. And Michigan and Indiana passed No Rights At Work laws in 2012.

Parramore describes a grim future unless the red-state model is crushed:
Red-state model proponents claim that their maneuvers will spark economic growth. But that was basically what George W. Bush had in mind when he supported a similar program for cutting taxes on the rich. That didn’t work out so well, and increased the very deficits Republicans decry. 
But here’s the really scary part. Slashing taxes, squeezing workers and throwing out environmental protections can indeed lure businesses to states where they won’t have to pay their fair share and can get away with all sorts of abuse. If a state like North Carolina promotes such policies, businesses from nearby states like Virginia may indeed move their operations down the road. ... what results is simply trade diversion, not genuine growth. In other words, one state’s gain is another state’s loss. The result is a headlong race-to-the-bottom whereby the states losing business will be pressured to slash their taxes and burden their workers and ordinary citizens, too. Nobody wins in that game -- except the 1 percent. 
The blue-state model, evident in high-income states like Massachusetts, has long been associated with high levels of state investments in education, transportation and other public goods. And guess what? It's also associated with economic strength.
Be very, very afraid.