Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Outside Agitators Inside the Gates

Okay, kids. I'm not going to spoon feed this to you. You may have to actually follow some of the links to flesh out the story as I ramble on and on like the damn desert, but it's well worth the effort. Professor Wm J Cronon of the UW wrote an article showing that the curious timing of a national flurry of fundamentally similar bills could be traced back to a group calling itself American Legislative Exchange Council. (ALEC) ALEC issued a non-denial denial of involvement to a specific question.
Raegan A. Weber, an ALEC spokeswoman, replied via e-mail that ALEC had not worked with "Gov. Scott Walker or any of our members on any of the governor’s proposed legislation."
A snot-storm ensued which soon spread. But, "Why does this even matter?" you ask. How could such inside baseball affect me? Do you turn on the lights when you get home? Does your computer use electricity?
ALEC's sample legislation advances the interests of low wage employers, energy companies, prescription drug companies against drug importation, private insurers threatened by health reform, various and sundry polluters, the private prison industry, and anyone who doesn't want too many Democrats voting. Its bills oppose unions and favor privatization of public assets.
Does any of that sound familiar? "What's disgusting?!" Well, pretty much that whole litany of conservative boodle, now that you asked. Using tax dollars to fund for-profit schools. Maciver=Scott Jensen=ALEC Closing the Capitol to the people and issuing outrageous edicts. Mike Huebsch=ALEC Prisons for profit. Jeff Fitzgerald = ALEC Health care reform. Scott Fitzgerald+Leah Vukmir= ALEC
Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) currently serves as an ALEC state chair. Wisconsin State Rep. Leah Vukmir (R) is the "public chair" of the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force, the "private chair" is Marianne Eterno of Guarantee Trust Life Insurance. Vukmir has a history of opposing mental health parity laws that would require insurance companies to cover psychiatric illnesses on par with other conditions.
Which brings me back to my point about electricity. We have a new PSC Chair for the next 6 years. He will "oversee and regulate" the energy policies that fulminate in the Walker administration.
"Phil will help protect ratepayers and ensure our state has a sustainable and economical network of power production facilities,” Walker said in a statement.
Everyone who believes that should sit down and rest a moment. But who is Phil Montgomery and why should we worry about a former legie joining the current administration? Well, in the first place Walker's budget cuts 10% of the headcount for the PSC making any oversight that much harder no matter who is in charge. And then you have that pesky Montgomery=ALEC=Privatizing Energy Generation equation. Scores of communities across Wisconsin are able to keep rates low and rate-payers happy because they own the generating plants. That's something Walker and the Fitz' can't stand and will seek to change. Write this prediction down. In the name of Economic Development the state will subsidize electricity for large end users but only if it's produced by an investor owned utility. Further, restrictions will be lowered to allow users to cross into the service areas of public utilities to cherry pick these subsidized rates. Public utilities will see large revenue losses leading to higher rates for residential users and calls to sell the generating capacity to investor-owned utilities. In the same way Walker will use municipalities to do to the Police and Firefighters that which he would not do, he'll use his new pet Dept of Economic Development to gut public utilities. I know you're tired of hearing about the Koch Brothers and AFP but the connections are here. I know you're weary of being beaten down by Wal-Mart stories but Wal-Mart is beating you down. And I know how cranky some folks get when you point out the definition of fascism in the dictionary. But giving in doesn't make your life better. The John Birch Society of the 50s and 60s were little more than a collegial bunch of goofs who believed Eisenhower was a Commie and got together now and again for a good book burning or two. This iteration is more tenacious and more ferocious and our ballots are the first line of defense against them. Never waste one again.

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