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These data suggest that legislation was driven by a national agenda, and that the pattern of which laws were passed was based not on where they were economically necessary, but on where they were politically feasible.
Understanding national legislative patterns The state-by-state pattern of public employment cuts, pension rollbacks, and union busting makes little sense from an economic standpoint. But it becomes much more intelligible when understood as a political phenomenon.
In Wisconsin, for instance, long-standing restrictions that limited corporate political spending were ruled invalid. Much of the most dramatic legislation since has been concentrated in these 11 states.
Particularly in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which have traditionally upheld high labor standards, the election provided a critical opportunity for corporate lobbies to advance legislative goals that had long lingered on wish lists.
Where Republicans found themselves in total control of states whose statutes had been shaped by a history of strong labor movements, employer associations and corporate lobbyists were eager to seize on this rare and possibly temporary authority to enact as much of their agenda as possible.
Who is behind this agenda? The past few years, however, have stood this axiom on its head: Local politics has become nationalized, with state legislation written by the staffs of national lobbies, funded in a coordinated effort by national and multinational corporations. The attacks on labor and employment standards have been driven by a powerful coalition of anti-union ideologues, Republican operatives, and corporate lobbies.
If Republicans cut off union funds and campaign volunteers in tossup states such as Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, they could conceivably alter control of the federal government. The anti-union campaigns have been primarily funded by a coalition of traditional corporate lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, along with newer and more ideologically extreme organizations such as the Club for Growth and the Koch brothers—backed Americans for Prosperity.
Recent trends have conspired to endow this coalition with unprecedented political leverage.
At the same time, elections for public office have become more expensive than ever, leaving politicians increasingly dependent on those with the resources to fund campaigns. Finally, the Citizens United decision abolished longstanding restrictions on corporate political spending. In this way, the dramatically unequal distribution of wealth has translated into similarly outsized political influence for those at the top.
The elections saw record levels of spending by business political action funds. Legislators are invited to conferences—often at posh resorts—where committees composed of equal numbers of public and private officials draft proposals for model legislation.
Thus state legislators with little time, staff, or expertise are able to introduce fully formed and professionally supported legislation. For instance, ALEC receives money from energy companies and lobbies against environmental controls; it receives money from drug companies and advocates prohibiting cities from importing discounted drugs from Canada; and it received money from Coca-Cola and lobbied against taxes on sugary soft drinks.
A common strategy ALEC employs to advance its agenda is to develop multiple model bills addressing the same issue. ALEC and its legislative partners then calibrate their bills to what they believe is politically feasible in a given place at a particular time.
For yet more-moderate legislators, ALEC has model legislation that, while perhaps allowing a one-time increase in the minimum wage, opposes tying the wage to annual increases in inflation.
Bills to prohibit inflation adjustment of the minimum wage are not really about inflation, for instance; they are simply the step that ALEC-allied legislators believe they can accomplish in this given session toward the ultimate goal of eliminating the minimum wage altogether.
Thus, the balance of this report will evaluate specific laws both on their own terms and as contributions toward broader economic goals. It first spells out the details of the corporate-backed legislative agenda with respect to public employees and public services, and then situates this agenda within the broader effort to lower wages and employment standards for all American workers—particularly the 93 percent of private-sector employees who are not represented by a union.
The legislative offensive against public employees and public services Having outlined the origin of recent legislative measures aimed at undermining unions, wages, and labor standards—as well as the strategies employed to enact these measures—the report now spells out the details of this agenda, beginning with an examination of the recent attacks on public employees and public services.
The sections below provide additional evidence that these attacks are not a response to fiscal crises, but rather reflect a political agenda unrelated to budget deficits. Further, the effort to undermine public services extends to attacks on even non-unionized government workers.
Finally, this broad agenda is likely to have spillover effects that undermine wages, benefits, and labor standards for private-sector as well as public employees. Attacks on public employee unions In Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere, attacks on public employee unions were justified as a necessary response to the fiscal crises facing state governments.
Commentators regularly suggested that budget deficits were the fault of unions that used their political clout to extract above-market wages and exorbitant benefits from hard-working taxpayers. In advocating a bill largely eliminating public employee bargaining rights, Wisconsin Gov.
But as alluded to previously, this characterization does not fit the economic reality. Rather than extorting above-market wages, an apples-to-apples comparison suggests that public employees generally make slightly less than similarly skilled private-sector employees. The budget shortfalls came on suddenly.
As recently as40 of the 50 states enjoyed budget surpluses. There was certainly no dramatic increase in employee compensation in these years.
On the contrary, as seen in Figures D and E, both the number of public employees per capita and the proportion of state and local budgets devoted to employee compensation have largely been flat for the past decade.body preview (8 words) HCR xxx Week 3 xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxx Billing Procedures.
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