Driving assessment

Alabama has mastered the complexities of constitutional corruption

“Just keep driving. Selma cops will ticket you if you drive too fast or drive too slow.

When slavery was widespread and permitted in the South, the low status of black people was well known. Affluent white people started America’s great scam after the Civil War. After recalling the miserable conditions of the blacks who had just been freed from slavery, the white landowners affirmed that all whites were brothers and superiors to blacks, who were their enemies although indigent.

Many states in the Antebellum South had majority black populations, so the first task was to keep blacks out of the voting booths. But equally important was the need to prevent whites who belonged to the lowest social class from joining with blacks to establish a united front in order to improve the economic condition of all who suffered from poverty.

Somehow poor whites were made to believe that blacks were their enemies. Rather than rallying to blacks as destitute as themselves, poor whites rally to wealthy whites, who succeed in making the recently freed slaves appear as a first source of difficulty for whites.

A recent New York Times report shows how the criminal justice system in Alabama was designed to trap the poor by imposing revenue-generating fees on the poor, whether white or black. According to the report, those who owned large estates in Alabama’s productive land areas and wealthy businessmen colluded more than a century ago to prevent the development of the state for the benefit of residents. low income.

The strategy was to rewrite the state constitution to cap taxes permanently. As a result, tax revenue cannot be raised to pay for regular expenses such as schools, public transport and proper health care. Property taxes, a major source of government revenue, are insufficient to meet the normal needs of society. According to the report, only 7% of the states’ municipal revenue came from property taxes in 2019. In comparison to other states, Mississippi got 12% and New Jersey 29% from property taxes.

Alabama compensates for the shortfall through a complex system of fees and penalties paid by citizens. The criminal justice system is a good source of revenue. Every time a person has to go to court or is stopped by the police for a light or questionable driving offense, the perpetrator pays a fine.

The report says that in 1874, the old slave-owning class rigged an election to pass a new constitution that permanently imposed low taxes on property. Over the next two decades, poor sharecroppers, white and black, united to overthrow wealthy elites. But the elites called another constitutional convention to strengthen their position.

Unlike any other state, Alabama has a constitution that prevents the assessment of taxes by anyone without constitutional amendment. The process to achieve this is so complex that changes to the state constitution are unlikely.

Alabama conservatives have thus devised a new approach to prevent social change. Innovation generally requires new funding. If the only way to fund a new project is to defund an existing one, this minimizes the possibility of generating public support for change.

The Liberals are already analyzing state redistricting plans to establish that party representation is fair. Liberals also need to examine the political structure of states to determine whether states, like Alabama, have developed systems to challenge the democratic opportunity for change.