Wednesday, May 15, 2013

49 anti-ALEC protesters arrested in NC

North Carolinians are fighting against the corporate takeover of the state’s government—yet another effort spearheaded by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In a protest on Monday, some residents were arrested for raising awareness about sham tax plans and other anti-worker policies being pushed by ALEC-sponsored  lawmakers.

Protests dubbed “Moral Mondays” have gone on for the last three weeks at the legislative building in Raleigh, the state’s capital. They're sponsored by the NAACP and other groups. 

During the protest this week, the Charlotte Observer reported 49 people were arrested when they refused to leave the second floor rotunda as House lawmakers met. Among the issues they are rallying against are proposed tax reforms that would help companies and the rich while saddling everyone else with more of the state’s tax burden.

The Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, said many of the ideas being put forward by the Republican-majority state legislature are modeled on proposals supported by ALEC. He argued that state lawmakers should listen to their constituents more.
“You should not be arresting us,” he said. “You should thank us for having the courage to tell it like it is.”
At the center of the controversy is North Carolina state budget director Art Pope, a close ally of the  Benedict Arnold Koch brothers. If you haven't been following, the Koch brothers bankroll ALEC, an escort service matching state lawmakers with corporations.

Before assuming his position as state budget director, the multimillionaire Pope spent years touting tax policies that shift more payments to the middle and lower class and away from the wealthy. He helped get Gov. Pat McCrory (R) elected last year, and now he is trying to make those tax policies the law.

A recent article by the Center for Media and Democracy details Pope’s efforts to pull the strings:
When McCrory appointed Pope as his budget director in 2012, many progressives in the state feared sweeping tax cuts were on the way. The governor has been mostly silent, so far, but … three Pope-tied groups have each released their own highly regressive tax plans.
The Civitas tax plan was written by Arthur Laffer, the author of the annual American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) tax publication "Rich States, Poor States." The two plans are like peas in a pod. Like the ALEC publication, the Civitas plan proposes austerity coupled with abolishing individual and corporate income taxes and replacing it with an increased state sales tax. A sales tax is regressive since the less a person earns, the greater proportion of their income is eat up by the tax. According to the North Carolina Justice Center such a shift would mean a tax cut for the wealthiest 20%, while placing a greater financial burden on the bottom 60%. This would translate into a $500 tax increase for somebody earning $24,000, but a $41,000 decrease for a $1 million earner.
In January 2013, Civitas invited Laffer to provide a day-long "briefing" to newly elected legislators. ALEC legislators from outside North Carolina also presented at the event. "Go to the goal line," Laffer told the North Carolina legislators, urging a tax code overhaul. "I can't tell you how proud I am of you."
Meanwhile, the newly-installed GOP majority in the legislature is not afraid to engage in trickery when it comes to promoting the ALEC agenda. Earlier this month, Republicans in one committee pushed through an energy bill on a voice vote even when it wasn’t clear which side prevailed. The panel quickly adjourned before a manual count of votes could be taken.

There is much at stake in North Carolina. The Teamsters hail those who are bravely protesting the ALEC agenda being advanced by Pope and others. Now is the time for all state workers to join the fight. We ask North Carolinians to contact their state representatives as well as the governor’s office and tell them to say no to the corporate takeover of state government.