Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott’s Plutocratic Florida

by Joy-Ann Reid
The Miami-Herald

There’s a reason no amount of robocalls and prefab letters to the editor will save Rick Scott from his dismal poll numbers: the nagging suspicion, including among a growing number of Republicans, that whatever his motivations, Mr. “777” isn’t in this for the Sunshine State.

Scott has no history of public service. He popped up on the political radar in 2009 to wage war against healthcare reform. His business mantra was: Let us make a profit, so what? This was back when he was running Columbia/HCA and dreaming of privatized Medicare. So far though, Scott has personally lost money on his $70 million gubernatorial investment.

He doesn’t seem to know much about Florida, and doesn’t appear to be all that interested. He spends more time appearing on Fox News than in media that actually reside here.

Scott’s icy demeanor and blink-free stare could lead the most sober mind to conclude he might be some sort of alien life form. Asked to defend his policies, he blankly spits out Heritage Foundation talking points — kind of like Medicare voucher Rep. Paul Ryan, without the hair.

Meanwhile, his trip to Colorado for a secretive meeting, hosted by David and Charles Koch, with other Republican governors, seemed like creepy confirmation that this guy isn’t so much the governor of Florida as he is one of several interchangeable ideologues elevated to state and federal government in part thanks to the faux grassroots “tea party movement.”

The Koch brothers are in many ways the hidden hand behind the tea party, which mind-melds corporate interests, libertarians, and the fanatical, 1950s-era John Birch Society.

The Kochs’ father helped found the Birchers, who deemed the New Deal, civil rights laws and taxes to be communist plots. Now that they’ve captured the Republican Party, which even now is threatening to plunge the nation into default to prevent a single millionaire from losing the tax deduction on his private jet, they’re embedding Bircherism into universities including Florida State, and into the fiscal policies of states like Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan and Florida.

These states’ governors, some of whom attended the Koch brothers’ Colorado klatch with Scott, are pushing almost identical agendas.

They’re seeking to lower — and ultimately eliminate — corporate taxes, even though since 2009, 88 percent of real national income growth has gone to corporations, versus just 1 percent to wages, according to a Northwestern University study.

They’re slashing state workforces and gutting public sector unions, ending collective bargaining for teachers, firefighters and police, and even seeking to weaken child labor laws.

They’re brazenly promoting policies that favor the rich. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently used his line item veto to cut aid to his state’s working poor, to women’s healthcare and even AIDS funding, then put through $150 million in larder to wealthy school districts.

They’re privatizing everything from public services to schools. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s “economic martial law” gives his “emergency managers” the power to dissolve entire towns and hand public schools over to private charter companies.

They’re blowing open the doors to more development and weakened environmental protections, which in Florida means putting state parks and the Everglades at risk.

They’re competing to outdo Texas Gov. Rick Perry at attracting low wage jobs in less-regulated industries, and they can live with a less educated workforce to get there.

The Kochs’ father, Fred Chase Koch, built his oil refinery fortune between the roaring 1920s and World War II, a time when America was, for all intents and purposes, a plutocracy. Men of great wealth roamed the financial plains, while a garment, mine or factory worker could labor 14-hour days for an entire lifetime and never earn more than a few dollars a day, with no health coverage, no pension, and no Social Security or Medicare to fall back on when they got old.

That’s the America the Kochs are nostalgic for (without the pesky 16th Amendment allowing for federal income tax). And governors like Rick Scott are their vanguard.

Tea partiers may think they’re driving this train, but Scott’s decision to accept SunRail after rejecting less costly, federally funded high-speed rail, makes it clear that in the end, they are only as important as the next photo op. In a contest with big business like SunRail beneficiary CSX, they will lose, every time.

Scott isn’t an alien. He’s a plutocrat.

SPaul: But he is just following a pattern most of us have not known of before but has existed all the while in America.  It is only now that it has become so openly recognized.

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