(a) Arizona, (b) Maine, (c) Nevada, or (d) all of the above.
From the sublime to the ridiculous (though I use “sublime” loosely), recent events in Arizona, Maine, and Nevada have both unsettling and stupefying resonance with Wisconsin. Not unlike at a voting place, we’ll start in alphabetical order.
Thanks to a 5-4 ruling on the Supreme Court (the national one), it is perfectly legal to for a state in effect to subsidize religious schools — at public schools’ expenses. Anyone in the public can give money by way of a tax credit to a “school tuition organization” — which in turn directs that money ($50 million annually) to private schools, two out of three of which are religious in nature. (This is in Arizona.) The difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction is when you give as a credit you get back a dollar-for-dollar return, whereas a deduction returns no more than one-third of the original donated amount. Because Arizona is not taxing the personal income of its residents who give upward to $500 to these “tuition organizations,” the state has forfeited $350 million. But who needs that kind of money when you’re faithing — I mean, facing — a billion dollar deficit. As Justice Elena Kagan strongly dissented, the 5-4 decision “offers a road map — more truly, just a one-step instruction — to any government that wishes to insulate its financing of religious activity from legal challenge.” Other states are just waiting to adopt this basic road map. Wisconsin may very well follow suit.
It’s worth noting, too, that the Obama admin. vigorously supported the Arizona plaintiffs and was glad the court reached the decision it did.
This one’s just a right whack-job. The governor of Maine, a Republican, kowtowing to oversensitive business leaders, ordered that a mural depicting the labor movement in the state of Maine’s history — hung in the Department of Labor building — be taken down. Apparently oblivious to the dictates of playground rules, the magnates of management got their undies in a bundle thinking the mural too one-sided. In addition to this, the governor has proposed to rename several conference rooms that honor both national and local labor leaders. Here’s where it gets repugnant. He ordered that it be removed the weekend after the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire — remember, one of the country’s worst workplace tragedies ever. Perhaps one of the soon to be renamed conference rooms could be Max Blanck and Isaac Harris — owners of the eerily named Asch building, where the fire occurred.
In a strange twist, the U.S. Dep’t of Labor, which put up $60,000 for the mural’s commission, is asking for its money back.
In March Governor Brian Sandoval-R (whose slogan is “A Reason to Believe Again,” which has a pitifully trite repetition of Governor Walker’s “Believe in Wisconsin Again”) has proposed to slash $164 million from state education funding, which resulted in the Capitol in Carson City being stormed by students demanding to be heard. (Sound familiar?) Maybe this is apples to oranges, but several times the governor has been asked whether it’s fair that this money can be gutted from the budget while mining operations companies pay zero dollars in taxes back to the state thanks to some archaic laws in the state constitution. In the video below Sandoval all but shrugs with a “but what can I do about it?” gesture, saying it’s the law. When reminded that he is the governor, i.e., someone who can actually do something about laws, he reiterates that one particular operation, Newmont Mining Corporation — a multinational mining corporation based in Colorado and the largest producer of gold in the world — which has been gouging the earth at a mine in Carlin, NV since — pays its “fair” share (that being zilch).
Interestingly, this same gold-digger in 2009 won the global Public Eye award in Davos, Switzerland, a coveted prize awarded to companies of “dubious distinction” whose environmental practices violate ethical standards. In a rare about-face made two days after the protests in the state capitol building in Carson City, Newmont agreed to compensate victims in Ghana for destroying unique natural habitats, polluting the soil and water with cyanide — CYANIDE! — and forcing local folks to move from their homes.
Segue: this reminds me of a documentary I saw last weekend called The Pipe, about Shell Oil muscling its way to a seaside community in rural Ireland. Here’s the link with more info — and reason No. Infinity not to buy gas from Shell.
Originally written: 4/05/11