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A Harvest Of Bitter Fruit In Florida

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  • pinesmoon
    During his eight-year reign as governor of Florida, Jeb Bush seeded the ground for the bitter fruit we Floridians are about to reap. His handiwork is poised
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2008
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      During his eight-year reign as governor of Florida, Jeb Bush seeded
      the ground for the bitter fruit we Floridians are about to reap. His
      handiwork is poised now to devastate this state and visit
      unprecedented suffering on its people. It will be a nightmare, part of
      which will imperil the public schools, the operation of local
      governments and the state retirement system.

      The government of the State of Florida realizes most of its revenues
      by way of sales and use taxes, intangible taxes and corporate income
      taxes. Sales and use taxes are the most regressive and hit poor,
      working and retired people the hardest. These taxes have done nothing
      but increase and when they are discussed it is in the context of
      raising them.

      Meanwhile, if he could have, Jeb Bush would have relieved Florida's
      wealthy persons and corporate entities of their entire tax burden. As
      it stands he came very near his goal. Tax loopholes created during his
      administration for corporate income now shelter between $500 and $600
      million that was counted as revenue before. $600 million more was
      lost to the state when Bush eliminated the tax on intangible
      properties (stocks and bonds) in January 2007.

      Jeb Bush tried to privatize all things profitable and make the people
      assume all risk associated with investment. His program gave a leg up
      to charter schools and turned elements of the state's water supply,
      public roads and social services over to wealthy investors. The
      linchpin of his health care agenda was to turn Medicaid into a private
      managed health care system. That program was piloted in five counties.
      The Department of Children and Families was turned into a massive
      private gamble that money could be made off Florida's most vulnerable
      children.

      When investments went bad the working people of Florida ate the loss.
      In 2002 the state's short-term investment and pension funds lost $334
      million as Enron collapsed, three times the loss of any other fund in
      the nation. Jeb Bush's minions invested in Edison charter schools when
      the stock was valued at $37 and got out when it was worth 14 cents.
      Another $500 million of the publics' money was lost to enable other
      corporate adventures.

      But the worst was yet to come! Because although term limits forced Jeb
      Bush to give up his Tallahassee office in 2006, it did not thwart his
      determination to keep the apparatus of state government under his
      control. Gov. Charlie Crist can only dream of having as much influence
      in this state as Jeb Bush. Bush handed his sword over to Speaker Marco
      Rubio to control the Florida House of Representatives. He moved Sen.
      Alex Villalobos into a broom closet and out of the line of succession
      to be President of the Florida Senate. His minions are shot through
      the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission and so in November
      we will be voting on draconian property tax cuts to kill the public
      schools and vouchers to boost the private schools. He put one of his
      stooges, Coleman Stipanovich, in charge of making decisions for the
      multi-billion dollar Local Government Investment Pool and the Florida
      Retirement System. Then he got himself a spot on the Board of
      Directors of Lehman Brothers, the giant Wall Street financial services
      corporation.

      The now resigned Stipanovich made $1.5 billion in bad investments,
      $842 million of them purchased through Lehman Brothers. The pension
      fund now holds $756 million in worthless paper related to the housing
      market meltdown, almost 8% of its cash holdings. The state's
      short-term investment fund is faced with similar losses. Jeb Bush and
      Lehman Brothers won't be losing any sleep over it though because the
      vulnerability has been dumped on Florida's 1.1 million current and
      retired state workers, hundreds of school districts and local
      governments, the state-created Citizens Property Insurance, and the
      state treasury.

      This fiscal year the state treasury suffered the first waves of the
      tsunami that is coming. The servile Florida State Legislature was
      called back into special session barely six months after passing a $71
      billion 2007 fiscal year budget to address a 1.1 billion dollar
      revenue shortfall. On that count, among other blows to the weakest and
      most vulnerable among us, these servants of the wealthy took $100 from
      each of Florida's public school children to balance their budget. The
      lights had not been turned out in the Capitol Building when the Office
      of Policy and Budget projected an additional $2.5 billion revenue
      shortfall over the next 18 months.

      Now the state finds itself in a $5 billion revenue hole and the
      proposed budget for this fiscal year is a crystal clear road map to
      where Bush's Florida is headed. The public school system will be
      closed down! Accommodations for our children are being made in
      sparkling new prisons. Out of work teachers will turn their kids over
      to newly hired prison guards.

      Under the conditions they are creating the Legislature anticipates an
      explosion in Florida's prison population--107,000 inmates by June
      2009. So they have earmarked $305 million to build one new private and
      two new public prisons and hire 1,000 new prison guards. Meanwhile,
      the public schools will suffer a $2.3 billion reduction in funding.
      That comes to another $140 less per child for education. There is
      actually $10 million less for the construction of K-12 school
      buildings than for prison buildings.

      The Secretary of Florida's Department of Children and Families Robert
      Butterworth has called this budget the equivalent of "a contract on
      kids." In so many words, the Secretary is saying that kids are going
      to die. These children will be the battered human faces of these
      legislative choices. And they are choices! The taxes on wealthy
      Floridians and on corporations could have been restored to pre-Jeb
      Bush rates. The intangibles tax on stock and bond holders too.
      Schools could have been put before jails. Teachers and school bus
      drivers could have been funded before new prison guards even became
      necessary.

      Paul A. Moore

      Teacher, Miami Carol City Senior High School
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