We’ve heard much talk in Frankfort from the “New Majority” about this Republican supermajority titling themselves the “People’s House.” They just don’t clarify, though, which people they mean.
For such clarity, we need not look further than the legislation that Republicans chose to prioritize in their whirlwind and costly #RocketDocket: right-to-work, repealing the prevailing wage, dismantling automatic dues deduction, and imposing restrictions on access to women’s health care.
The thread connecting these initiatives is that they essentially parrot efforts by Republican legislatures in others states over the past few years–like Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and others–which constitute a cynical, concerted effort to silence the voice of every day citizens and strengthen the grip of wealthy, corporate interests on the reins of government. Much of this legislation is based closely on model legislation propagated by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, a Koch-funded tasks force whose main focus is funneling pro-corporate legislation through state legislatures across the country.
This is most readily apparent in the right-to-work and so-called “paycheck protection” act, which are aimed solely at dismantling and busting organized labor. The political power of labor, a group which has long supported Democratic candidates, is a threat to Republican control; it should therefore be no surprise that literally the first bill introduced by the new legislative majority takes aim at unions.
While conservative judges are busy expanding the power and reach of corporate money in our electoral system, conservative legislators are busy limiting the the power and reach of organized labor in our electoral system. These dual actions are alarming and disturbing threats to our democracy.
Repealing the prevailing wage falls under the failed supply-side worldview in which Republicans are firmly cemented, making Arthur Laffer’s investment in the GOP efforts to take back the Kentucky State House particularly prescient. Laffer is the father of supply-side economics, which lately seems to be the only aspect of the Reagan legacy Republicans recall (what with Trump’s bizarre affection for Putin). A brief skim through a history book, though, will teach you that Laffer’s theories failed by all practical measures. I recall well a professor in college who often commented that the Laffer curve was named that for two reasons: 1) Laffer was the guy who created it and 2) It’s idea was laughable.
During debate in Frankfort on Saturday, I listened as one Republican State Senator said the majority was not trying to go after minimum wage, then he paused and added a sinister, “yet.” By repealing the prevailing wage, Republicans continue to chip away at the idea that the economy does best when more money is in the pockets of consumers and middle class families who fuel the economy. By depressing wages, Republicans are padding the pockets of their corporate allies and ideologues like Lafffer who invested millions of dollars in their victory.
Finally, how does the perpetual assault on women’s access to health care tie into this concertedly corporate agenda? It’s nothing short of a distractor, a red herring for their base and the rural voters to whom they appeal by redefining and simplifying moral questions into black-and-white, soundbiteable issues like abortion and gay marriage. Adding the abortion and informed consent bills to this weekend docket is a fundamental “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” move by Republicans. They can return to their districts and tell their constituents they voted to “save the unborn” while ignoring the havoc their policies will wreak on those very families and in those very communities–areas for whom they have no practical solutions.
The Kentucky House of Representatives is no more the “People’s House” than the Koch Brothers are the Stanley Brothers. From Washington to Frankfort, the Republican Party is pulling one of the biggest con jobs in the history of American politics. They talk the talk of populism while walking all over middle class and rural communities. They claim that they support working families, but as their priority agenda made clear, nothing could be further from the truth.
We have a chance in the next two election cycles to repair the damage that 2016 has wrought in Kentucky and reclaim the reins of leadership in this Commonwealth. That task begins with exposing the con, and conveying a message to the people of the Commonwealth that this is, by no means, their House.