“This is a takeover by the right wing and it’s an assault on democracy like I’ve never seen.”
~ Mark Gaffney, Michigan State President of the AFL-CIO.
Perhaps lost in the Wisconsin shuffle is the story of what exactly is happening in Michigan. Newly elected Republican governor, Rick Snyder, is set to pass one of the most sweeping, anti-democratic pieces of legislation in the country – and almost no one is talking about it.
Snyder’s law gives the state government the power not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed “Emergency Managers” in their stead. But that’s not all – whole cities could be eliminated if Emergency Managers and the governor choose to do so. And Snyder can fire elected officials unilaterally, without any input from voters. It doesn’t get much more anti-Democratic than that.
Except it does. The governor simply has to declare a financial emergency to invoke these powers – or he can hire a private company to declare financial emergency and take over oversight of the city. That’s right, a private corporation can declare your city in a state of financial emergency and send in its Emergency Manager, fire your elected officials, and reap the benefits of the ensuing state contracts.
These Republican governors have risen to power in what will eventually be seen as one of the great political farces of our time. The Tea Party movement talks a good game about democracy and limited government, but in practice its elected leaders are crony-capitalists and union-busters. There is nothing limited about a state government that can erase entire cities or take control of school districts and local governments with the swipe of a pen. Manufactured crisis and a litany of politicians and power-brokers talking about how broke we are is all it takes to rob us of our democracy.
Public services are on the auction block, and unions, teachers, and anyone else standing in the way are all going to have to fight for their continued existence – or at least their continued membership in the ranks of the middle class.
If “Emergency Manager” is not dystopian enough a term for you, perhaps the fact that such radical legislation could go almost unnoticed in the national press is. Fortunately, Rachel Maddow proves an exception to the rule: