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I read with interest an article posted on the West County Dems listserv about how counties in Wisconsin are expanding their use of prisoners to do the work that county employees used to do.  This is just one more example of the success of the American Legislative Exchange Council and other ultra conservative extremist groups in dismantling everything “public” in our country.  The prison system was one of the first public institutions to be privatized.  Utility companies are running a close second.  Many of the public parks and recreation programs around the country are going that way too.  

So it’s important to connect the dots and remember:  The goal of ultra conservative extremists is to dismantle public programs so the upper classes don’t have to pay taxes to support them.  Some of the UCE’s honestly don’t believe in taxation for anything other than defense, and even that is being contracted out in many instances.  They don’t want to pay taxes and let the common good be the guiding principle.  They want investment opportunities to increase their wealth.  Even for the UCE’s who accept the whole tax thing, there is still the ever-expanding lust for profit at the expense of others.   So when you put the “no tax” people in cahoots with the “more wealth” bunch,  you get a heady mix of power at the expense of the majority of Americans.

This has been a long time building.  ALEC was formed in 1973 for the explicit purpose of rewinding the progressive achievements  of the 20th century.  Go to http://www.alec.org and click on “initiatives.”  The whole story is right there.  Then watch the news and connect the dots.  The lowest tax rates in 50 years. CHECK.  Private companies making huge profits using prisoners as employees for private corporations.  CHECK.   Prisoners replacing public employees and putting union members out of work.  CHECK.   Disenfranchising citizens by making it harder for them to vote.  CHECK.   Propaganda campaign against public schools and public school teachers. CHECK.  Defunding and crippling the EPA.  CHECK.  Shifting wealth from the middle class to the top 1% of the population.  CHECK.  Electing ALEC members all across the country who will perform as programmed.  CHECK.   Filling the lower court systems with conservatives who will “graduate” to appellate and supreme state courts.  CHECK.   Convincing voters to vote against their own best interest by keeping them focused on gays, guns and abortion.  CHECK.   Closing public hospitals and clinics.  CHECK.  Branding “entitlement” programs as the enemy of the people.  CHECK.  Shifting the blame for the country’s economic woes to President Obama and silencing critics of the Bush administration.  CHECK.  

Well, you get the message.  Now it’s up to us to explain this to as many voters as possible.  We can let this pattern continue until we are totally under the power of the corpublicans with the tea party flakes running the country –  or not.  If you don’t like what’s happening,  change it one issue, one candidate, one public program at a time.

I’m going to be 72 yrs old next month, and I’d like to live long enough to see at least the beginning of the next progressive resurgence of citizen action.  Maybe the good people of Wisconsin are showing us the way.  If it takes tens of thousands of activists in every state to get enough momentum going to reach the tipping point, so be it.  Every time you see an opportunity to show up at a rally –  BE THERE.   Showing up is 80% of what life is all about.  Isn’t it?