In April 30 IssueBy Kathy Foley, Columnist
On this, the 27th day since the Russell County Fiscal Court declared war on the working poor and middle-income citizens of this county, I've decided to present an overview of other battles being waged, almost exclusively by Republicans, against Americans who struggle the most to create a decent life for themselves and their families. But first, I want to make you aware that President Obama, in his Facebook town hall last week, spoke directly to our very own Russell County magistrates:
"Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor, or people who are powerless or don't have lobbyists or don't have clout."
Okay, he wasn't speaking exclusively to our magistrates, but he was speaking directly to them, although I'm afraid I don't have any faith that they were listening. He was also speaking to a lot of other state and local governments as well as the Republicans in the House who just passed the Paul Ryan budget proposal that cuts Medicare benefits in order to give the wealthiest 2% even more tax breaks. His ridiculous plan reduces the top tax rate 10% from 35 to 25% and reduces corporate taxes even more. Although how corporate taxes can get lower than zero, which is what GE paid last year, I have no idea. His plan does nothing to reduce the deficit; nor does it say anything about controlling health care costs or education.
Then there is the President's call to immediately end the $4 billion taxpayer subsidies for the big oil companies. No way will the Republicans agree to that-no doubt because they get so much money from big oil to fund their campaigns and push their agendas. It is anticipated that the first quarter profits for Exxon Mobile, Chevron and Conoco Phillips alone will be over $18.2 billion (that's a "B" folks), a 40% increase over last year. This, while gas prices are up 53 cents per gallon over the same 3 month time period and still going up. So, while we are now shelling out nearly $4.00 per gallon to get to & from our barely-above-minimum-wage jobs here in Russell County (although employers here refuse to admit in public that they pay such low wages), and while we are paying our new 1% Occupation tax for the privilege of working those fine jobs (while the employers are NOT paying 1%), we are also paying for $4 BILLION of tax subsidies going to those fat cat oil companies. Is there any sane human being out there who really believes this is a good thing? Well, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the other Republicans must think so-but then again, I said "sane," didn't I?
That's not really fair, though, because if your real goal is to make sure that President Obama doesn't get re-elected in 2012 above and beyond any other concern - like say, the welfare of the average American citizen, then it is very sane to do everything in your power to make sure gas prices stay high. Why? When asked about Obama's chances to be re-elected recently, John Boehner said, "…If gas prices are 5-6 dollars per gallon, he certainly won't win…" And with the wealthy, big oil and Karl Rove's Citizens United behind him and other Republicans, they certainly don't need to be concerned with the middle class.
Now let's take a look at what is going on in some other states with Republican governors and legislatures:
• Wisconsin - We already know about the illegal legislation passed by the Republicans and Governor Scott Walker to strip union rights. In Milwaukee, Walker is starving public schools to pay for his new voucher system which puts private companies in charge of running the schools there. The achievement testing in those schools show that his voucher program is failing because the students are doing the same or worse than the kids in public schools.
Not one to let details like this stand in his way, Walker now wants to expand this failed program to the entire state. Oh and that pesky problem of low achievement? He knows how to solve that too-he will just exempt those voucher schools from any further state achievement testing! Now, there's a real problem solver!
• Michigan - The Republican Governor of this state, Rick Snyder, has simply decided that Democracy, itself, is the barrier to solving his state's problems. He has expanded the power to simply go into a city or town and throw out all the duly elected officials and substitute his own dictator, which is what has been done in the very poor town of Benton Harbor. The median income in Benton Harbor is $10,100. The state appointed dictator/manager has decided to give the public park in Benton Harbor over to a developer to construct a huge golf resort. The annual membership fee to play golf at this new resort will be $5,000. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this resort is not being built for the residents of Benton Harbor since it would cost them half their annual earnings to play there.
• Michigan just keeps getting better-Republican State Senator, Bruce Casswell proposed this week in his new budget that the state's foster children should only be allowed to get their clothing from 2nd hand stores. Really. This is really a true story…
• Maine - Republican Governor Paul LePage is backing a bill in the legislature which would roll back many of the state's child labor laws by eliminating the maximum number of hours a minor could work on a school day, allowing them to work until 11:00 pm on a school night and increasing the maximum number of hours they could work per week to 24. And did I mention that they would also pay minors less than the legal minimum wage? Does anyone remember the original reason for child labor laws in the first place? That perhaps children should be in school learning instead of working??? You can bet that the children of wealthy folks won't be spending their formative years working for less than minimum wage instead of getting an education.
These are just a few of the shots being fired at the poor and middle class across the country. I would have to have this entire paper not just this week but every week to discuss all the efforts being made by Republicans to demolish the middle class.
However, the middle class are not giving up and rolling over (except for maybe here in Russell County, that is).
After the Republicans in the House passed the Paul Ryan budget they came home to their districts to hold town hall meetings where they are being met with anger and hostility. They are learning that 80% of Americans don't want Medicare and Medicaid changed. They don't want the wealthiest 2% to get even more tax breaks funded by removing benefits from the elderly and poor.
In Wisconsin, even though they want everyone to believe that there is just as much backlash against the Democrats who left the state in opposition to the illegal bill they pushed through their legislature, the facts say differently. As of yesterday, the Democrats' grass roots efforts to recall some Republicans from office have been successful-they have obtained enough signatures to file recall elections on 5 Republican legislators and expect to file the 6th one today. On the other hand, the conservatives targeted Democrat Senator Lena Taylor for recall, but they missed the deadline to file because they needed 13,498 signatures and they only got a few hundred (embarrassingly enough, some of those were only obtained by buying their signatures with booze-true story-caught on audio tape). Democrat Senators Fred Risser, Spencer Coggs and Mark Miller were also targeted by conservatives, but alas, they also missed the deadline on them as well due to not enough signatures.
As far as the local war goes here in Russell County, I might be wrong and I hope I am, but I believe that the topic of amending the new unfair Occupational Tax to make it more proportionally shared by the rich is dead unless more of us show up and continue to bring it up at the Fiscal Court meetings.
The next meeting is Monday night, May 9th at 6:00 p.m. Are you going to show up? Or, are we satisfied to surrender to the wealthy and powerful and just call this war against us lost?
(Note: If you'd like to receive the Russell County Fiscal Court's notices of meetings-special-called and regular, agendas and minutes please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting to be added to the email list. I urge ALL concerned citizens to do this and stay informed.)