Radical States
February 17, 2011, 1:00am


When President Obama took office amidst the worst recession in three generations, he immediately focused his energy on enacting a comprehensive plan to revive the nation’s economy. Newly elected Republicans, however, have interpreted their temporary rise to power in an entirely different way. Where Obama saw an immediate need to grow the nation’s economy, GOP leaders are seizing their moment to force longstanding GOP fantasies upon the people they govern. Several GOP-led states are pushing plans to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights. Twelve states are considering unconstitutional bills “nullifying” the Affordable Care Act. Arizona Republicans are lining up behind a plan to unconstitutionally strip citizenship from millions of Americans. New Hampshire Republicans have returned to the GOP’s favorite pastime of denying gay Americans their constitutional rights. Given the opportunity to lead, far-right politicians have decided instead to ignore the nation’s needs and pursue their own narrow, unpopular ideological vendettas.

INTIMIDATION FORCE: While congressional Republicans block long-needed funds intended to help the states keep police, public schools, and Medicaid running even in the middle of a weak economy, right-wing state lawmakers have seized upon their states’ budget crisis as an opportunity to make life even harder for workers. Indiana, Idaho, and Tennessee all have legislation in the works to cut teachers’ ability to collectively bargain. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) wants to strip all state workers of their collective bargaining rights. One Missouri lawmaker even proposed rolling back child labor laws. But none of these plans hold a candle to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) assault on his state’s workforce. Walker plans to eliminate many collective bargaining rights and force state workers to give up nearly 20 percent of their pay to cover their existing pension and health benefits. Worse, in a statement that seems more likely to emerge from Stalinist Russia than from a modern democratic society, Walker threatened to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to intimidate any workers who protest his plans. To their credit, Walker’s constituents have not been silenced by his threat of military force. About 13,000 protesters stormed the state capitol in opposition to Walker’s anti-worker plan. Hundreds more protectors met Walker at the governor’s office. Even the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers released a statement telling Walker that “[t]he right to negotiate wages and benefits is a fundamental underpinning of our middle class.” Nevertheless, Walker doubled down on Fox News Tuesday night, reiterating his threat to use the National Guard to put down dissenting voices.

PARTY LIKE IT’S 1829: Meanwhile, 12 other states are considering an unconstitutional tactic that President George Washington once described as “preposterous and anarchic.” Last year, a leading Confederate apologist named Tom Woods published a book touting an antebellum practice known as “nullification,” in which states pass laws claiming to “nullify” a federal law. There’s only one problem — the Constitution expressly forbids this practice, proclaiming that federal laws “shall be the supreme law of the land” and binding upon each state. Nevertheless, the GOP-controlled Idaho House just passed a bill claiming to nullify the Affordable Care Act, and many other GOP lawmakers are itching to follow suit. While nullification is unambiguously unconstitutional, these bills could have a tragic effect on low-income Americans and on state budgets. Idaho’s Attorney General recently warned that, because federal law permits states to opt out of Medicaid, a state law attempting to nullify health reform could inadvertently kick Idaho out of the Medicaid program. If this occurred, the state would lose over $1 billion in federal grants to administer its Medicaid program — an amount that equals approximately two-fifths of the state’s overall budget, and it would have to chose between eliminating health coverage for the 223,198 Idahoans who currently depend on Medicaid, or implementing similarly draconian cuts such as slashing its public schools budget by 85 percent.

REPEALING CITIZENSHIP: Not to be outdone, Arizona Republicans are pushing an equally unconstitutional plan to strip citizenship from the children of undocumented immigrants. In 1856, the Supreme Court handed down its most infamous decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford holding, among other things, that a former slave was not welcome into the community of U.S. citizens. Eleven years and a bloody Civil War later, the war-torn nation ratified the Fourteenth Amendment for the very purpose of overruling this repulsive holding. As the Supreme Court explained more than a century ago, the 14th Amendment ensures that all persons born in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens — with rare exceptions such as the children of diplomats. Nevertheless, far-right Arizona lawmakers are now pushing a fundamentally un-American bill to create an underclass of children born in this country but unable to call any nation their own. Apparently, the Constitution doesn’t apply when Republicans see an opportunity to score points

Several school systems in Wisconsin cancelled classes today, as teachers and other public employees continue to protest a bill that would force steep wage cuts and a loss of collective bargaining rights. At least 10,000 employees and supporters protested yesterday.

Hundreds of heavily armed riot police officers in Manama, Bahrain rushed into large crowd of demonstrators yesterday without warning, “firing tear gas and concussion grenades.” Many demonstrators were sleeping before the raid and after, “Men, women and young children ran screaming, choking and collapsing.”

In a memo to House Republicans marked “confidential”, the Tea Party group FreedomWorks urges the GOP to focus on expanding the unregulated individual health insurance market, without paying too much attention to “how many people are covered.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta said yesterday that the U.S. would most likely move Osama bin Laden or his deputy, if captured, to Guantánamo Bay. “We would probably move them quickly into military jurisdiction at Bagram for questioning and then eventually move them probably to Guantánamo,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) argued against any cuts to Social Security in a meeting with President Obama at the White House yesterday. The President and Congressional leaders are reportedly working behind closed doors on a deficit reduction agreement, and Reid wants any reductions in Social Security benefits to be “off the table.”

Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell wants the U.S. intelligence community to answer for its faulty intelligence on Iraq’s WMD program. “The question should be put to the C.I.A.” and the Pentagon, Powell told the U.K.’s The Guardian, as to why “false information was put into the [National Intelligence Estimate] sent to Congress, the president’s State of the Union address and my…presentation to the U.N.

Yesterday, the House cut $450 million in funding for the Joint Strike Fighter second engine as GOP freshmen joined Democrats to “eliminate a military program that the Pentagon has said is unnecessary.” The 233-198 vote “was a defeat for Speaker John Boehner” (R-OH), who “personally tried to dissuade members from cutting the engine funding.

A state police officer who was derided as an “idiot” three times by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) rejected an effort by the governor to reach out to him by phone. The officer demanded an in-person apology and a meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.

Florida Rep. John Mica (R) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D) “are scrambling to salvage” $2.4 billion in high speed rail funding that Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) rejected yesterday. Blasting Scott’s decision as “more than a hiccup,” Mica is working with Nelson and federal officials looking into other options to fund it, including creating an authority among cities from which the money could flow.

And finally: You can’t use Google to verify this, but Google may be building an Islamic caliphate in Egypt, according to Glenn Beck, Fox News’ professional conspiracist. Beck has been very concerned that a Google executive was involved in the pro-democracy protests in Egypt — which he has vigorously opposed — and last night, he vowed, “I won’t use their products anymore unless I have to.”