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The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Agenda is on Full Display: Empowering America to Death

May 11, 2020

At present, it seems like there is no leadership in America.  Indeed, as we watch the Trump Administration ignoring their own guidelines as White House aides get sick and the national response slides into a chaotic patchwork quilt of ineffective policies, one might just conclude that we are dealing with a tragic case of national incompetence.

That, however, would be a mistake.  What we are witnessing is not just simple chaos and mismanagement, it is an orchestrated strategy.

Mitchell McConnell is not just blowing smoke when he rails against the prospect of “blue state bailouts.” He is simply advocating for the kind of policy that the American right is systematically pushing at every level.  As David Armiak and Alex Kotch of the Center for Media and Democracy recently reported, “a powerful corporate lobby front group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is playing a leading role in the right-wing movement to push for early reopening of the economy amidst the coronavirus pandemic.”

What Armiak and Kotch reveal is that while the wing nuts and rightwing extremists occupy the spotlight, the more important players behind the scenes are folks aligned with a far-flung network of corporate operatives, free market think tanks, the usual foot soldiers of  Charles Koch, and people with ties to the Trump Administration itself.   Their “Save Our Country Coalition” is part of ALEC’s aggressive push to rapidly reopen the country against both the wishes of a sizable majority of Americans and the advice of public health experts.

Their goal?  It’s the same stale laundry list of anti-government clichés with the predictable go-to solutions of “incentivizing the rapid rebuilding of our economy through proven formulas: tax cuts, deregulation, and lawsuit reform.”  The source of their urgency is that they, perhaps more than many progressives now, see that the current moment is imperiling their interests because it calls for a bold, big government response that is an existential threat to everything the starve the beast crowd loves.

Perhaps those who serve the interests of American oligarchy know that if we had a massive concerted Federal response which stopped doling out billions to the millionaires and corporations and started taxing the economic elite and delivering aid to everyday Americans that helped them stay healthy, fed, housed and hopeful, they might actually appreciate it.  Indeed, what would be a dream for millions of Americans is their nightmare.

Thus, for the folks who helped bring you Donald Trump, the national response to the COVID-19 crisis that you might be seeing as an ongoing dumpster fire, getting smellier by the moment, is a miracle of good libertarian governance.

As the ALEC email to supporters crowed:

This is the first time in our country’s history that during a global crisis the U.S. has used a decentralized response that empowers states to act.  At ALEC we know that one size does not fit all.  In the past we have seen big government approaches that don’t meet the people’s needs—but we are not seeing that today.  Although it may be a foreign concept, empowering our states to respond appropriately matches the principles our country was founded on.

You may have been yearning for the kind of response that FDR brought to the last Great Depression, but all that New Deal stuff simply didn’t meet “the people’s needs,” according to ALEC.  All that oppressive big government left us with a nasty legacy of effective legislative action, workers’ rights, Social Security, and the antiquated, dangerous notion that sometimes we actually ARE in this together.  That won’t happen this time, though, not if ALEC has its way.   As we watch the death toll rise, the unemployment numbers skyrocket, and the lines of cars at food banks stretch for miles ALEC is keeping us safe from big government.  Their “decentralized response” is hard at work, and it just might “empower” you to death if we let it.


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