Aside from marriage equality and sexual freedom, I generally avoid bloging about politics. But I feel the rare need to climb on to my soapbox and issue a warning and a wake-up call. I live in NC, which recently underwent some dramatic political upheavals. Folks in other states need to know our story b/c what happened here is coming your way next.
The leading man in this story is a guy named Art Pope. Pope is the most influential political money man in NC and a close friend of the billionaire Koch brothers. In recent years, Pope has spent over $46 million on steering NC to the extreme right and spent millions on misinformation about climate change. Pope, owner of chain super-discount stores like Roses and Maxway, is a smaller version of Sam Walton, essentially using the same Walmart strategy. He uses his power and influence to deliberately depress the economy so the poor have to buy cheap goods at his stores (where workers are paid poverty wages) and then pours their money back into political actions designed to further depress the economy.
Several years ago Pope purged NC of moderate republicans by financing candidates running to their right. Then, in 2010 Citizens United (which I think history will ultimately remember as one of the single most stand out moments in the decline and fall of America) opened the floodgates for corporations and the super-rich to pour unlimited amounts of "dark money" into elections. In 2010, over 75% of the money spent on right-wing candidates and groups (like "Real Jobs NC" - a Pope front) came from Art Pope.
As a result, the far-right Republicans took control of both houses of the NC legislature for the first time since right after the Civil War. And 2010 was a census year. That meant the Republicans were able to re-draw the voting distrcits in ways that would be to their advantage. Art Pope was literally in the room while the districts were gerrymandered.
As a result of he 2010 gerrymandering (and more Art Pope money), in 2012 the far-right Republicans took a veto-proof majority in both houses and the governor's mansion putting them in a position to pass basically any law they want. During that election I was getting flyers in my mailbox multiple times a week supporting republican candidates
and denouncing gay marriage (which already wasn't legal in NC anyway, but almost
every piece of mail I received attacked gay marriage) - mostly paid for
by Art Pope's "dark money," I'm sure. And the Governor appointed Art Pope as Budget Director. So what have they done w/ their new laws and budget?
They cut long-term unemployment assistance.
They blocked a Medicaid expansion, denying healthcare to 500,000 North Carolinians
They cut tax rates for the rich so that the wealthiest individuals paid 20% less taxes than they did in the year before and corporations paid 27% less.
75% of all tax cuts went to the wealthiest 5%.
They repealed the inheritance tax - a tax which only affected the super-rich; in 2011 it only affected 13 people in the state. The whole point of the tax is to keep big money from piling up in family dynasties, but they axed it.
They cut earned income tax credits for the poor.
The cut pre-K programs and programs for at-risk kids, laid-off thousands of teachers and teacher-assistants, cut school supply budgets by as much as 60%, eliminated tenure and bonus pay for teachers who have master's degrees... all while using vouchers to funnel public money into for-profit schools where less money is spent on the kids so money can go into the pockets of Wall Street investors.
They cut $64 million from NC's higher education system.
They got rid of jobs for environmental regulators.
They cut drug re-hab programs.
They cut $8 million from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program which will amount to about 900 people w/ AIDS who will no longer be able to get their life-saving medication.
NC used to have public campaign financing for appellate judges (b/c obviously you don't want a judge hearing a case where one of the parties contributed to his campaign), but they eliminated that. Now, big money buys judges too.
They closed 15 out of 16 abortion clinics statewide.
They have attacked voting rights by limiting early voting, eliminating same-day registration, and eliminating pre-registration for 16 and 17 year-olds. Why? B/c they know that most election day voters are older, whiter, and more conservative; while most early voters tend to be younger and more diverse.
This is Art Pope's legacy. For those of you outside of NC, take this as a little sneak preview of what's coming your way. Largely b/c of Citizens United, and b/c of America's version of the Golden Rule, one super wealthy individual can almost rule a state.
(Most of the info on here came from http://www.artpopeexposed.com/ and http://billmoyers.com/segment/preview-state-of-conflict-north-carolina/ )