This Guardian special report should be required reading. It uncovers anti-government programs sponsored by think tanks that are funded by the Koch Brothers and corporations like Philip Morris, Kraft, and GlaxoSmithKline. Here are some of the programs sponsored by the think tanks listed in the Guardian report:
• "Reforms" to public employee pensions raised by SPN thinktanks in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania;
• tax elimination or reduction schemes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska and New York;
• an education voucher system to promote private and home schooling in Florida;
• campaigns against worker and union rights in Delaware and Nevada;
• opposition to Medicaid in Georgia, North Carolina and Utah.
These programs are being pitched in 34 states across America. But one of the most extreme programs is unfolding in my home state of Maine:
In its grant bid, the Maine Heritage Policy Center asked for $35,000 to support a "research and demonstration project" that would "release residents from extreme government dependency". It would turn the state's poorest area into what the Portland Press Herald describes in its report from Washington County as "a gigantic tax-free zone".
Dubbed "FreeME", the initiative would eliminate state income tax and sale taxes from residents and businesses until the economic conditions in the county rise to the statewide average. The hole in the county's income from lost tax revenues – estimated at $35m a year by the think tank – would be filled through budget cuts.
Lots of people don't know this because they think of the state as nothing but lighthouses and lobster, but Maine is a very poor state. And once you get away from the relative affluence of the Portland area in southern Maine, you'll come across some areas that resemble Appalachia in terms of poverty. Combine that poverty with one of the teabaggiest governors in the country, and you've got a fertile testing ground for Koch-style libertarianism. I'm sure the business opportunities presented by a "tax-free zone" are appealing to the international corporations behind these think tanks, too. If this idea becomes a reality, the residents of Washington County will be paraded around by the conservative media as examples of what America could be like under the "power" of unfettered capitalism. They're planning to experiment on forgotten and ignored Americans like lab animals.