Americans are witnessing firsthand the long-intended consequences of Republican economic policy that favors corporations and the rich to make room to drastically scale back services and programs that serve 98% of the people, but the damage on the national level pales in comparison to Republican-controlled states. Indeed, when Democratic voter apathy and opposition to President Obama’s inability to grant every whim of many on the left prompted them to sit out the 2010 midterms, it gave Republican governors the power they needed to take their states back to conditions typical of 19th century America. For four-and-a-half years teabaggers and hardline conservatives decried the 21st century and claimed their intent to “take our country back,” and their calls have been answered with the systematic demolition of the public education system and for Texas residents, the loss of paved roads.
First, while Texas Republicans and Governor Rick Perry approved giving corporations $1.6 billion in tax cuts in April, residents learned this week the Texas Department of Transportation (TDOT) began converting paved roads to gravel to take their already pathetic roads back to 19th century standards. The roads primary damage is from years of heavy oil industry equipment and according to the TDOT, the “only option to make roads safer is to turn them into gravel roads,” and for further safety, speed limits on the unpaved roads will also be lowered to 30 mph. Ranchers and farmers are impacted the most and they are understandably unhappy, but that is the consequence of electing Republicans more concerned with giving $1.6 billion in corporate tax cuts than repair 38% of Texas roads in poor condition according to America’s Infrastructure report card. The same Republicans giving corporations tax cuts follow other Republican states withholding funds for education; Texas ranks 49th in the nation in education spending and Pennsylvania and Virginia are attempting join them at the bottom of the education funding list.
In Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett and the Republican legislature followed an ALEC plan carefully and have refused to fund schools adequately despite the state Constitution mandates the Legislature “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education.” Republicans are uninterested in the state Constitution mandate and forced the city of Philadelphia school district to borrow $50 million just to open schools according to schedule on September 9, albeit without counselors, administrative staff, noon aids, nurses, librarians, or pens and paper. Corbett and Republicans did manage to approve corporate tax breaks amounting to $833 million, and they are following an ALEC mandate to break the Philadelphia’s school district in order to crush the teachers union and divert money to vouchers for religious and corporate run charter schools.
Thus far, the district laid off nearly 4,000 teachers and staff members, and closed 24 schools, and this is after they were forced to shutter eight schools the previous year and it informs that empty buildings and mass layoffs are the Republican vision for education reverting back to 19th century America. One Philadelphia school appealed to parents to donate $613 per student just to open the school that marks the beginning of the end of equitable public education, and it is part and parcel of Republicans’ deliberate attempt to prevent the city’s poorest children from getting an education. Besides breaking public schools, teachers’ union, killing thousands of living wage jobs, and leaving children uneducated and impoverished, Republicans can pillage teachers’ pensions and transfer them directly to their ALEC-supporting corporate donors.
The prospects for Virginia’s education system according to the fanatic yearning to be the first theocratic dictator in Virginia history are not much better than either Texas or Pennsylvania if aberro-Christian Ken Cuccinelli is successful in his bid to be governor. Cuccinelli took a page right out of ALEC’s playbook and proposes cutting the education budget by nearly half-a-billion dollars and diverting what is left to private charter schools, online learning, and publicly funded parochial schools. According to Cuccinelli, the separation of church and state provisions the United States Constitution and Article IV, Section 16 of Virginia’s constitution were anti-Christian bigotry that cannot stand and he will repeal the Virginia Blain Amendment that explicitly bars government funding for religious schools and institutions. In Louisiana a similar unconstitutionally enacted law to Cuccinelli’s proposal exposed a flaw that meant Christian taxpayers would be forced to fund an Islamic school, but so far religious schools benefiting are those inserting biblical teachings into math, science and literature along with restricting education that does not comport with evangelicals’ world view.
Republicans and their legislative arm ALEC have much more in store for Americans than simply providing gravel roads and inadequate religious education funded by taxpayers, but any emerging enterprise has to start slowly. Every tactic and policy ALEC devises for Republicans to enact in the states is a portent of the GOP’s plan for the federal government. For example, Republican states slashing education and transportation funding while providing billions in corporate tax cuts follows the Ryan budget that cuts education spending by 33% and transportation by 38% to give the wealthiest Americans a 15% tax cut. The nation’s infrastructure is at the bottom of developed countries in the world and yet Republicans refuse to fund the President’s request for $50 billion to create jobs repairing over 70,000 bridges despite the nation requires $3.7 trillion over ten years to bring America up to standards to compete with the rest of the world.
One is inclined to feel for the residents of Republican-controlled states except that likely the same people affected by Republicans destroying public education and replacing paved roads with gravel voted for the ALEC governors and representatives bent on taking the nation back to the 19th century. They doubtless decry secular education and fall for the home and religious school scam that gives anyone with a King James qualifications to educate children to compete in the 21st century world. However, there are residents in Republican-controlled states who do not adhere to religious libertarianism ALEC and Republicans are selling as “parent choice” and “free market capitalism” and they are unnecessarily suffering the effects of serving the corporate world’s needs that ALEC and Republicans are advancing.
If nothing else, Republican states are providing the rest of the nation with a portent of what they have in store for the entire country, and it is rolling along at 30 miles per hour on gravel roads and an education consisting of honing Ten Commandment skills. It is important to remember that Republican states destroying education and underfunding basic services for “lack of funds” are giving billions to corporations in tax cuts, and it is exactly what voters wanted. Sadly, they are likely unable to stop ALEC Republicans because the same politicians destroying their states are destroying their right to vote and in that sense voters did get what they asked for; no education, gravel roads, and no right to vote to change their pathetic 19th century states.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.