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A battery of elected ideologues opens fire on those who serve the public

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TEXAS. Gov. Rick Perry brags that he's made the lone star state "corporate-friendly." Here's what that friendliness buys you: While Texas' unemployment rate is not as bad as most states (it ranks a so-so 22nd), the wage structure here is deliberately worker-hostile -- average hourly pay is the 44th lowest in the country. Texas is, however, at or near the top when it comes to the poverty rate, the percentage of people with no health insurance, the income gap between rich and poor, the most regressive tax system, the cost of electric bills, and the rate of high school dropouts.

Then there's the radioactive $27 billion budget deficit that Perry has run up -- the second-highest in the country. So who's expected to bear this deficit burden? The middle class and the poor, of course, including at least 100,000 school teachers who're now getting their "excessed" notices. Perry's budget chops current school spending by nearly $8 billion, even as student enrollment soars. Teachers and kids must absorb the shortfall, says Texas Rick, because he can't bear to hike the meager taxes paid by corporations and the rich, nor will he stand for eliminating their tax loopholes and state subsidies. Texas budget writers admit that they will not begin to meet the state's basic needs and that Perry's stripped down budget will cost Texans 335,000 more jobs in the next two years. They're praying that theirs are not among them.

WISCONSIN. This is where America's middle class first planted its flag and confronted the civil war. As the Lowdown reported last month, newbie-Gov. Scott Walker's extremist, anti-worker agenda (developed for him by Koch-funded corporate front groups) sparked a massive grassroots rebellion of ordinary Wisconsinites, and they are not going away. In substance, Walker's attack on laboring people is much like his fellow right-wing guvs in other states. But he has been especially arrogant, autocratic, and abusive in trying to ram it into law, essentially operating as an above-the-law, tinhorn tyrant. Walker and his legislative henchmen -- openly backed by Koch money and operatives--are big government on a rampage. Here are just a few of their ends-justify-the-means tactics:

WHEN 14 STALWART DEMOCRATIC SENATORS left the state for Illinois to deny Walker the necessary quorum needed to pass his bill killing collective bargaining, his senate leader changed the rules so the 14 could not get their paychecks. When this silliness failed to lure any of them back, Walker's team plotted to send state troopers to arrest them -- even though they had broken no laws.

FURIOUS AT THE DEMOCRATS, Walker got real petty. His legislative leaders decreed that the staffs of the 14 absent senators could not use copying machines in the capitol. That'll teach 'em!

WITH OUTRAGED PROTESTORS swarming into the capitol daily, Walker arbitrarily locked it down, illegally shutting peaceful Wisconsin citizens out of their own building.

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FROM THE START, Walker loudly insisted that suspending public employee rights was necessary to balance the state budget. Finally, though, with Democrats still denying him a quorum, he suddenly dropped his fiscal responsibility pose, stripped the bill of all budget numbers, and -- in a coup with little advance notice and no debate -- slammed the anti-worker provisions through.

A LAWSUIT, however, claims the bill's passage was illegal because senate leaders violated the open meetings law to sneak it through. To consider this, a judge has temporarily blocked the statute -- but Walker's agents made an end run and simply declared it enacted. No, said the judge, reinstating her injunction.

WITH THE BATTLE NOW IN COURT, the GOP senate leader issued a new rule dictating that while the 14 senate Democrats are free to attend committee meetings and cast votes -- "those votes will not count." He was later forced to withdraw this autocratic absurdity.

This is war

The Powers That Be don't like us thinking in terms of class war, or even using the phrase. But from the ever-expanding wealth gap to the relentless downsizing and offshoring of American jobs, from the Supreme Court's enthronement of corporate political money to the state-by-state offensive on worker power--what else can it be called?

The six states above are certainly not the only battlefields -- perhaps your governor, mayor, and congressional members are pushing the same attack. Did all of these officials independently and simultaneously choose to side with wealth against the rest of us -- or is this a coordinated push? If it's the latter, what can you and I do about it? In the June Lowdown, we'll follow up on these questions with Chapter Two on America's Civil War.

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Jim Hightower is an American populist, spreading his message of democratic hope via national radio commentaries, columns, books, his award-winning monthly newsletter (The Hightower Lowdown) and barnstorming tours all across America.

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political analyst from the left.  For most of... by Laura Stein on Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 1:11:24 PM