At the beginning of the 20th century. one plutocrat arrogantly declared, “We own America; we got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it.”
In 2017 Kentucky, we might paraphrase a beaming multi-millionaire or billionaire saying, “We own Kentucky; we got it by buying the legislature and we intend to keep it.”
In the wake of this year’s General Assembly we witnessed the interests of out-of-state corporations and the rich check off items from their wish list as the Republican-led House, Senate and our governor moved closer to a laissez-faire economy at the expense of working men and women and our most vulnerable citizens.
The filter the Republicans and the super-rich use to assess any legislation is: Will it make the rich richer?
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With poverty growing (nearly one in three of our children now live in poverty) and the gap between the rich and poor widening, now is the time to build a society that works for all citizens.
Instead, in this recently concluded legislative session, we witnessed the further crushing of the middle class and the poor by the corporate elite and their cronies who spent millions to concoct out right lies, trump up fears and spread suspicions to defeat Democrats last November.
What did the Republican legislators give the elite in return?
▪ Union-busting legislation to ensure lower wages for workers and record profits for the rich. The passage of the right-to-eork (for Less) law and the elimination of a minimum wage for men and women in the construction trades promise more poverty, longer working hours, weakened worker safety and strained family relations.
▪ Transfer of public-school dollars to for-profit corporations to run charter schools without elected school-board approval and with minimal oversight. The guaranteed winners in this scheme are corporate stockholders and CEOs.
▪ Stifling of lawsuits by the average citizen harmed by physicians, health-care facilities, big developers and corporations.
▪ Opening the door to the Koch brothers and other right-wing extremists to set the academic agenda in our public colleges and universities by giving our multimillionaire governor power to fire trustees at will, without due process.
▪ Increase in weight limit on specific commercial trucks from 80,000 lbs. to 120,000 lbs., further endangering all drivers and accelerating the deterioration of our roadways.
▪ A green light for the rich to keep their newfound power with a 100 percent increase in the limit on political campaign contributions, further polluting the election system already toxic from millions in dark money from outside forces.
The age-old Amish dictum proved correct once again: “Those who have too much are never satisfied.” So more demonic actions can be expected.
Our governor, who refuses to keep his promise to release his tax returns, is baiting us to remedy the vexing pension crisis with a “consumption tax.” All sales taxes are sold to the everyday Joe and Jane as fair. This is another lie of the rich. A sales tax is the most unjust tax of all.
Why? Because every dollar a struggling working Kentuckian makes, they spend to live. So every dollar spent is taxed (except for groceries, prescription drugs and personal utilities). But just a fraction of every dollar a millionaire brings is spent. The rest is invested to make even fatter portfolios.
Brace yourself as corporations and the rich push consumption taxes and call for the elimination of income, estate, property and corporate taxes. Far from being a solution for our pension problems, such a plan will mean even less revenue to pay down our liabilities, invest in our schools and more.
Next time you see your Republican senator or representative at church or at the grocery, ask how they voted on the elite’s wish list. Expect them to be accountable to you and your neighbors, not big money and corporations. Let them know you refuse to permit the rich to own them or our great commonwealth.
Kentucky Rep. Jim Wayne is a Louisville Democrat.