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

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Worked diligently to help one business in particular: his own. After being dumped by Columbia/HCA, Scott set up Solantic, a Florida chain of emergency care clinics. As guv, he is working to privatize Medicaid, which would create a huge statewide customer base of poor people for a certain chain of clinics tied directly to Scott (lest you think this is self-serving, the governor made a point of divesting his interest in Solantic just before taking office -- he transferred ownership to his wife, literally putting his interest at arms length! This was so stinky that he later was forced to sell it).

Issued an executive order requiring drug tests on thousands of state workers and every future applicant for state jobs. He's also pressing the legislature to mandate drug tests for all the hard-luck Floridians who apply for welfare benefits. Welcome to Rick Scott's Florida -- please pee to prove your innocence! Now, guess which corporation is in the drug-testing business? Yes, Solantic.

Catered to the rich. He has proposed massive tax cuts to corporations and millionaires, even as he wants to whack state education spending by 10 percent and taken an average of $2,300 a year out of each teacher's paycheck. Moreover, in a perfect snapshot of his class-based values, Scott has tried to eliminate state spending on two historically black universities, while trying to funnel taxpayer dollars into the construction of golf courses in state parks.

MAINE. For sheer crudeness in going after labor, it'll be tough to top Paul LePage, the new gubernatorial potentate of the pine tree state. Previously the manager of a chain of discount surplus and salvage stores, this right winger won the five-way governor's race last fall with only 38 percent of the vote. Unencumbered by humility, LePage has interpreted his meager percentage as a sweeping mandate to repeal workers' bargaining rights, restrict the ability of unions to collect dues from their members, cut pension benefits for state employees (though he mercifully exempted one -- himself), raise the retirement age for public workers, cut programs that benefit Maine's middle class (while generously lowering the tax bill for the state's richest one percent), and even roll back child labor laws!

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Then he literally raised disdain for working families to high art. In March, the governor dictated that an 11-panel mural be removed from the state labor department's lobby. The piece depicts scenes from the state's rich labor history, but the governor says it represents a "one-sided decor" that reflects poorly on his pro-corporate agenda. Also, his office claims that "some business owners" complained, including one who saw the painting as an attempt to "brainwash the masses." So, ever attentive to the artistic sensibilities of unnamed corporate executives, the mural was "disappeared."

This made LePage a national joke -- "The most moronic and mindless anti-worker gesture in the country," editorialized the Hartford Courant, and the Maine People's Alliance ridiculed him as "the state's interior decorator." The sharpest sting, though, came from the US Labor Department. Pointing out that the mural had been paid for by a federal grant under George W. Bush's regime, the feds are dunning LePage to return the money or reinstall the artwork. The governor's office is presently studying its options.

MICHIGAN. Rick Snyder posed as a moderate Republican to win the governorship last November. But the real Rick turns out to be a flaming corporatist.

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In a state desperate for programs to help its hard-hit working families, Snyder's first budget priority was to give corporations a 60 percent cut in taxes. To help make up for that revenue loss, he proposed to tax the pensions of working class retirees and kill the state's earned income tax credit for the poor.

Then came his low blow to Michigan's huge number of jobless folks. He snuck a provision into law that stops unemployment benefits after 20 weeks, taking away six weeks of assistance that every other state provides. The state chamber of commerce gloated that "it's a huge win for job providers" (aka, corporate barons). Indeed, the slick move will save corporations about $300 million a year -- money taken right out of the hide of jobless people.

But the jaw-dropper is his Local Government Fiscal Accountability Act. This tyrannical law effectively authorizes Snyder to seize control of local governments, suspend democratic sovereignty, and hand municipal authority and assets to the corporations of his choice. He can declare that any city, county, school district, etc... is "insolvent" and then appoint a manager to run the entity. This autocratic regent, which may be a private corporation, would have the power to bypass and even dismiss elected officials, commandeer the public budget, cancel all contracts (including collective bargaining agreements), decertify public employee unions, sell off assets, and even dis-incorporate the local entity.

It's the reincarnation of King George III, dressed in corporate splendor.

OHIO. John Kasich, a former GOP congressman, routinely bashed Ohio's unions in his 2010 gubernatorial run.

Backed financially by the likes of the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch, he is now backing their vision of a union-free America. His club of choice is a draconian law that bars teachers and other public employees from striking for any reason, punishes any workers who participate in a walkout, eliminates automatic pay raises, bans any union effort to limit privatization of a government function, prohibits police and firefighters from access to binding arbitration in contract disputes, and only allows public employees to bargain with their governmental bosses when the bosses say they can.

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Kasich excuses this by asserting that he was elected to make drastic cuts in state spending, including in the pay of these workers. But he has spared a few workers -- those in his own office. For example, he is paying his chief of staff $170,000 a year, nearly $50,000 more than the position previously paid. To get "good people to come in" to government, Kasich said without a trace of irony, you have to offer good salaries.

None of this has endeared him to Ohioans. The public opposed his attack on working people (it passed by only one vote in the state senate), his approval rating after just three months in office has crashed to 30 percent, a sizable majority now would vote for his 2010 opponent, and there's a move to recall him.

But, for the moment, hundreds of thousands of Ohio workers have had their rights and financial well-being sacrificed at the Koch-Kasich altar of corporate ideology.

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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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