Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mad scientists of lawmaking are looking to go medieval on America

Mad scientists of lawmaking are looking to go medieval on America

The Demoralize the Workforce Act: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker didn't just threaten to deploy the National Guard against state workers unless they accept big pay and pension cuts. Apparently, that was too Kent State and not enough Ludlow Massacre for him. So he pressed to statutorily bar those workers from ever again collectively bargaining.

The Child Labor Act: Missouri state Sen. Jane Cunningham's proposal to eliminate child labor laws would allow corporations to employ any kid under 14 and would terminate restrictions on the number of hours that kid can be forced to work. The legislation is proof that when Tea Party ideologues refer to "the '50s," some of them aren't referring to the 1950s -- they are referring to the 1850s.

The Obesity and Deficit Encouragement Act: Colorado exemplifies America's childhood obesity epidemic and its budget crisis. The state's childhood obesity rate grew at the second fastest rate in the country, and its $1.2 billion budget gap is threatening the state's already underfinanced schools. Yet, despite the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing that higher soda taxes would drive down obesity, and despite such a levy raising much-needed public revenues, Colorado's newly Republican House is pushing legislation to create a special budget-busting sales tax exemption exclusively for soda.

The Endorsing Your Own Demise Act: Between trying to legalize hunting with hand-thrown spears and pressing to eliminate education requirements for those seeking the office of state superintendent of schools, Montana's Republican lawmakers are also considering legislation to officially endorse catastrophic global climate change. That's right, in the face of a Harvard study showing that climate change could destroy Montana's water supplies, agriculture industries and forests, state Rep. Joe Read's bill would declare that "global warming is beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana."

If you don't live in one of these states, it's easy to tell yourself that these bills don't affect you. But history suggests that what happens in one "laboratory" is quite often replicated in others -- and ultimately, in the nation's capital. That's why we should all hope saner minds cut short these experiments before they get even more out of control.

* David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now."