By Rep. Chris Taylor (D-WI)
The first post-presidential American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting this week in Washington, DC made clear that starry-eyed conservative state legislators had visions of more power dancing in their heads. Corporations were giddy thinking about the tax giveaways and incentive packages (think the $7 million Trump/Pence tax giveaways to Carrier to keep less than one-half of its jobs in that state) surely coming their way. Even keynote speaker Carly Fiorina this morning seemed hopeful, seemingly forgetful of Trump's former abuse.
Certainly, Trump wasn't the first choice of most ALEC members. Many other Republican presidential hopefuls had come to kiss the ALEC ring over the course of the Republican presidential primary. ALEC prince Scott Walker came before he fell off the presidential cliff. Kellyanne Conway appeared before ALEC in July, then a mere pollster. She (correctly) identified the mood of the electorate (very angry), and said that only a "change agent" like Trump could prevail. Even Mike Pence showed up to ALEC, but still no Trump. The ALEC audience was Trump wary.
Times have changed. Conservative state legislators, right wing think tanks and corporate lobbyists, the three legs of the ALEC stool, understand that the collision of a Trump presidency in an ALEC country, where 33 states are now totally in Republican control, offers loads of possibilities to further advance corporate dominance and profits. Though several ALEC members borrowed Trump's "draining the swamp" reference to Washington DC, the alligators (i.e., corporate lobbyists) were swimming all around the ALEC conference, ready to take a deep dive into a swamp growing larger by the day.
The Trump team is filling up on billionaires and political insiders, and that suits the ALEC crowd just fine. After all, ALEC exists to maximize the profits of their corporate kings, including Koch Industries, Exxon Mobile, PhrMA, Altria, and Pfizer, who pay upwards of $25,000 to become members. Left in the dust are the working low and middle income people of our country, who only get the crumbs of the trickle down, top down economic system that ALEC promotes and from which Trump has reaped a lifetime of rewards.
The priorities of a Trump presidency and ALEC are identical – more tax cuts for the wealthy as the wages of low and middle income workers stagnate, gutting environmental protections and clean energy initiatives, and privatizing public education. At the Education and Workforce Taskforce meeting today, the next wave of K-12 privatization efforts were pushed in the form of Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs), where a portion of state monies spent on public education is given directly to parents to spend in any way or at any school they choose with little oversight. According to a director from the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options, even "horse therapy" can be covered by ESAs.
My Wisconsin Republican colleagues, several of whom were present at the taskforce meeting today, recently indicated that they were considering ESAs for Wisconsin. This is on top of the unaccountable private voucher and charter schools siphoning approximately $500 million this biennium from Wisconsin's public schools, schools that are now receiving $1,000 less per pupil, adjusting for inflation, than they did in 2008. Betsy DeVos, another billionaire Trump appointee as Secretary of Education, has led the charge in privatizing, and ultimately trying to destroy, public education. ALEC members are salivating at the prospects.
As usual, the likely big losers in this collision of Trump nation with an ALEC land are actual people. But that is a sacrifice ALEC is always willing to make.
State Representative Chris Taylor, a Democrat, represents the 76th District in the Wisconsin State Assembly. See CMD's reporting on the ALEC agenda this week here.