While Iowans were enjoying excellent summer weather this week, the corporations were handing marching orders to the various state legislators who owe them fealty above the fealty they show to their various states. Yep, ALEC had a meeting in San Diego last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Whether any representatives were there from Iowa is immaterial. They will get their marching orders sent back to them either way. With long time Republican legislative leaders such as Linda Upmeyer and Ways and Means chair Tom Sands heading up Iowa’s ALEC legislative group, you can bet that Republican members of Iowa’s legislature will be working hard to put in the ALEC agenda.
For those new to the blog world, ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a corporate run lobbying group that essentially writes corporate friendly laws that legislative members then take back to their respective states to push for passage. Laws are not written to address specific problems in specific states, but rather to push a very corporate friendly agenda across the country state by state. If conditions within a state are not calling for the ALEC legislation, the strategy is to then create the conditions that will make the ALEC preferred legislation appear to be the answer.
In other words ignore what the state needs and work to make the conditions favorable to the corporate written ALEC solution.
A good example is the national push to privatize the public schools in this country, state by state. Since our public schools were generally fairly good the first strategy is to create the conditions that would call for a change in the current way that public schools are operated. So schools needed to be throttled back. One of the best ways to achieve this is to cut state spending on schools. One of the best reasons for cutting spending on schools is lack of tax revenue. One of the best ways to cut tax revenue is to cut taxes. Taxes that sound good to cut are business taxes. Thus a state can claim they are trying to bring jobs and business to the state by cutting taxes.
Another good way to make schools seem like they are not achieving desired results is to create standards that are hard to achieve and based on some arbitrary testing scores. Tying state and federal funding to arbitrary testing will force schools to focus on teaching for the testing and abandon their former goals. Since success is hard to achieve based on goals set by legislators, many schools suddenly begin to look like failures.
One more good way to create conditions that call for an ALEC solution is high teacher to student ratios. Easy to understand that each student gets less attention when they are 1 of 30 competing voices than when they are one of 15 or 20. When school funding is cut for whatever reason, administrators are forced to make decisions to cut the curriculum, raise teacher to student ratios, or keep out of date text books. Slowly conditions in even the best of schools can get edgy as all these strategies nip at the very foundations of good schools.
Schools can survive such assaults for a period of time, but after a while they take their toll. We seem to be in the middle of an assault on schools in Iowa. Many Iowans were surprised and appalled by Branstad’s line item veto of the 55 million one time funding to schools. A few of us thought it was right in line with the slow squeezing of schools to make the push to move to privatization in a few years much more palatable. Did I mention that Gov. Branstad was one of the founders of ALEC?
Schools are just one of the many fronts that ALEC is leading the assault on. Union busting laws, stand your ground laws, anti-food labeling laws, laws that squash local ordinances on controlling oil and gas fracking drilling. The list is a long one. The very saddest aspect of the whole ALEC fiasco is that constituents elect folks like Upmeyer and Sands to represent them when in truth these folks and others like them around the country are really working for ALEC and helping create the conditions that will help make the ALEC agenda a reality.
ALEC meetings are behind closed doors and off limits to the press. That seems to be counter to open meeting laws since legislators are involved. When a reporter in Georgia tried to get into a meeting between Georgia legislators and ALEC he was thrown out.
Americans deserve to know what is driving their legislators and what the stories are that are truly behind laws passed in Des Moines and other state capitols.