ALEC v. the Middle Class
The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed corporations. —Thomas Jefferson
ALEC is a dating service for state legislators and corporations. —Ed Muir, AFT
Who Is ALEC?
If you really want to know who and what is behind something in government, follow the money.
It’s not a coincidence that the recent assault on workers and their unions occurred simultaneously in different states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey and others. Or that, closer to home, there is now a war on Alaska’s public schools.
Funded by large corporate interests who view the wages and benefits that support your family only as an annoyance that cuts into their massive profits, ALEC (“American Legislative Exchange Council”) is a clearinghouse that churns out anti-worker legislative templates for politicians who’d like to stick it to you without expending any actual effort on it. So when a union-busting legislator now wants to launch his perennial attack on working folks, ALEC provides him a handy, one-size-fits-all, ready-to-file template into which he only has to enter, say, “Alaska” and “Carl Gatto” before dropping it in the hopper.
They’re not honest about this, of course—one of ALEC’s hallmarks is the Orwellian use of language wherein things are called the opposite of what they really are, in order to make them sound more appealing. “Keeping your wages low and your benefits nonexistent” doesn’t have quite the same public appeal as “right to work,” it turns out. If all else fails, throw “freedom” in there, as the Alaska Health Freedom Act sounds way more catchy than “health care should about insurance companies making huge profits, not your sick kid’s ability to see a doctor.” If insurance companies want to drop women from coverage the moment they develop breast cancer and actually need their health coverage, why should the government interfere with the company’s “freedom” to thus abuse their customers?
But when we strip away the corporate spin, we unmask the sheer, unrestrained greed illustrated in this graph about ALEC sugardaddies the Koch Brothers, who, at the very time they amassed more and more billions simultaneously laid off more and more people. “Job creators?” Not so much:
For more background on the organization, Truthout has published fascinating pieces on its identity (ALEC—America’s Secret Political Power) as well as the lengths to which it will go to prevent the public from getting information about it (Inside ALEC—Naked Contempt for the Press and Public in Scottsdale).
What Is ALEC’s Strategy?
The ALEC shakedown of the middle class basically works like this. Let’s say you’re newly elected Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and your corporate BFFs the Koch Brothers have you on speed dial.
Step One: Drain your state budget into the coffers of your friends via more corporate loopholes and another round of tax giveaways.
Step Two: Tell the public how broke your state is. Which, due to Step One above, is now true.
Step Three: Point the finger at teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other public employees, thereby conning the public into blaming their own neighbors, family members and friends.
Divide and conquer, baby! Pit middle class folks against each other, while the Koch Brothers laugh all the way to the bank. With the right messaging, you can deflect public ire away from the greed of billionaires for whom no amount of wealth is ever enough, and instead gin up resentment of your kid’s teacher and her “greedy” desire to provide the basic necessities of life for her family. By ALEC’s math, making over $250,000 is considered not rich when it comes to extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but one fifth of that—$50,000—is suddenly considered quite lavish when it comes to teachers and other public employees. Heck, that’s enough to provide their families with extravagances like “groceries,” a housing payment, and some of that fancy-pants “gasoline.”
A single mom working 3rd shift at the hospital or the guy driving the snow plow don’t, of course, have the ability to bankroll campaigns or hire lobbyists, and therefore lack the access to the corridors of power enjoyed by the corporate titans on Wall Street. As a result of the undemocratizing of our government and elections, corporate earnings and executive compensation have been setting record highs while the working families that comprise America’s middle class have been taking it in the teeth. Real wages have steadily declined for decades. Access to health care, a dignified retirement, the ability to send their kids to college, and now even the ability to hang onto one’s home are slipping further beyond the reach of working parents.
But this state of affairs is not enough for ALEC. Labor unions are the last thing standing in the way of their corporate clientele. Despite being outspent in elections, on average, by a 10-1 margin by corporations, unions do at least provide workers the ability to join forces and pool their resources in order to defend their families’ incomes & health benefits. Which is why it wasn’t enough for Gov. Walker to have public employees agree to concessions at the bargaining table—that is, to give up wages and benefits to help the governor fix a mess that was of his own making. No, this was never about balancing the budget for Walker, a man who clearly objects to “checks and balances” when it comes to any sort of check on corporate power. What instead he and ALEC demanded was the complete destruction of unions altogether. With us out of the way, with no organized opposition left to stand in its way, ALEC, its corporate clients, and the legislators who do their bidding would be free to pillage what little the American middle class has left without anyone left to resist them.
Who Represents ALEC’s Agenda in Alaska?
Catherine A. Giessel; Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
Lesil McGuire; Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
Fred Dyson; ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting
John B. Coghill, Jr.; International Relations Task Force
Wes Keller; ALEC State Chairman, Education Task Force member and attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting
Anna I. Fairclough; Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
Cathy E. Munoz; Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force
Bob Lynn; Public Safety and Elections Task Force
Mia Costello; Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
Carl J. Gatto; ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member, cited ALEC’s “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act,” when he introduced his “Alaska Health Freedom Act” in 2011
To keep up with the latest, bookmark ALEC Exposed—an excellent source of information about an organization that doesn’t like to share information about itself. The site also features timely updates and news bulletins related to ALEC.