Just in case the citizens of Iowa were concerned that the retirement of Kraig Paulsen as speaker of the House next January might loosens ALEC’s grip on the Iowa House rest assured that the most likely successor is even tighter with ALEC than Paulsen was.
Linda Upmeyer is the former chair of ALEC and heir apparent to the Speaker’s chair next January. Once again, for those who are new to this, ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council. Behind that innocuous sounding name lies a corporate group that writes very corporate friendly legislation and helps member legislators get such legislation passed. In short, ALEC creates legislation that is extremely favorable to corporations. If conditions do not exist that would call for an ALEC solution, ALEC members work to make such conditions exist.
Let’s take the recent school funding line item veto by Governor Branstad. Branstad is also in the tank for ALEC, having been a founding member some 40 years ago. One of ALEC’s major agendas is to gut public schools and create a clamor for alternative, profitized schools. One of the best ways to do so is to cut public funding to public schools. As the money goes down, schools will inevitably be unable to maintain the high quality that we in Iowa once took as our birthright. If you lived in Iowa you got to attend the best schools in the country.
Paulsen and his colleagues in House refused to move on a major underfunding of schools continuing the policy they have established over the Branstad term. Democrats refused to leave Des Moines without more money for schools and an assurance that Branstad would give the money due consideration. Thanks to an upsurge in tax revenues it looked like the compromise of a one time cash infusion to the schools would be safe from the Branstad veto pen. But, no it wasn’t. Branstad tried to duck any media scrutiny by vetoing school funding on a Friday night before a major holiday weekend. That was July 3rd.
Many were surprised by the veto. Those who have watched Branstad over the years were not. His loyalty is not to Iowa, but to the corporations of ALEC and their mission to profitize every aspect of our lives. The House leadership fought tooth and nail to pass a school budget that that would send Iowa’s schools in reverse, much like many other Republican led states in the country. When they finally compromised, it was done in such a way that the compromise could be carved out by the line item veto pen.
Don’t forget that the environment for the cutting of school budget money was set up years before when the legislature passed major tax cuts geared mostly to corporations.
Expect another major row over school budgets next year with nearly the same scenarios. Republicans under Upmeyer will once more propose little if any increase and will refuse to budge. Once again they will break the law they themselves pushed by refusing to even attempt to pass a school budget on time. As they waste our time and money in Des Moines, Iowa’s school children will be crowded into larger classrooms with even less individual attention. We can expect Iowa’s test scores to continue to fall.
We can also expect to hear more and more voices calling for the private sector to come rescue our schools. Most of these voices will be from people who are invested in some way in having schools profitized. You can bet that Speaker and former ALEC chair Upmeyer will have an ALEC approved bill ready to make that happen. Head of the House Ways and Means committee chair and ALEC task force member Tom Sands will be ready to give his stamp of approval and former founding member of ALEC Terry Branstad will be ready to sign it and declare a major step forward for Iowa.
Thus will Iowa go down the road to being a subsidiary of ALEC and their member corporations.
As Iowa is led along this prepared path to its ALEC endorsed conclusion, remember legislation is seldom reversed. Also remember that the major media voices in this state – newspapers, radio TV and magazines – are corporate owned and will be pushing for profitized corporate answers to what ever problems come up or are created.