A Petri Dish For Wingnut Ideas.

Since Janet Napolitano was selected by President Obama to head Homeland Security, the inmates in the asylum otherwise known as the Arizona Legislature have run wild.

Without adult supervision (and a strong Governor to veto their lunacy), legislators have unleashed a torrent of right wing legislation signed into law by Jan Brewer. In addition to the ill-conceived immigration law (SB1070), they banned classes on Latino cultural studies in public schools. They passed a law to fire teachers who have an accent. They made it legal for anyone to carry a concealed gun without a permit. They slashed spending on public schools (AZ now ranks 51st out of 50 states and D.C. in spending per pupil). They cut funding for highway rest stops and for state parks, forcing many parks to close, despite the fact that tourism is one of the state’s largest industries. And they voted to eliminate health care for children of low-income families until they discovered that the state would lose federal funding by doing so, which would cost the state more than it saved.

For 15 years in a row, the Arizona Legislature has cut corporate taxes. So corporations now contribute just 9 percent to Arizona’s total tax revenue. At the same time, the Legislature refuses to close billions of dollars in tax loopholes available to corporations. To compensate for the lost revenue, the state has raised sales taxes which place a disproportionate burden on the poor (in my town, the sales tax is now more than 10 percent). Moreover, much of the legislation represents solutions in search of a problem. For example, they passed a law requiring candidates to produce a birth certificate (take note, President Obama). And they have challenged the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, spending tens of millions to defend legal challenges by the Federal government.

As a result of all this, Arizona now has one of the largest budget shortfalls in the nation along with one of the highest levels of unemployment. The Legislature and the Governor have driven more than 100,000 people out of the state, made up stories about kidnappings and decapitations in the desert and told the world that Arizona is too dangerous to visit.

But the wingnuts aren’t yet finished with destroying the state.

The upcoming election has even more wingnut ideas on the state ballot. Legislators want to cut a program for Early Childhood Family Education and sweep the money into the general budget. They want voters to pass an amendment allowing the state to opt out of the national health care program. They also want voters to pass a NRA-backed amendment making it unconstitutional for the DNR to restrict hunting, even for an endangered species.

If you’re unhappy with the bickering in Congress, it may be tempting to send a message by electing a bunch of angry, uninformed Tea Party candidates to Washington. You may even think that Congress couldn’t possibly get any worse with them in charge. If so, you don’t have to wait to see the consequences to our nation. Just look at Arizona.