themcglynn.com

06 Nov

Democracy Itself at Stake in Michigan

By Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks, The Daily Take | News Analysis

The O’Leary: Recall Snyder!

If you were to tell most Americans that democracy itself would be on the ballot in a major state like Michigan, they’d think you’re mad. But they’d be wrong.

When Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder rammed Public Act 4 through his state legislature shortly after assuming office in 2011, he signed one of the most radical anti-democracy laws in recent memory. It’s a law that likely made nearby Wisconsin and Ohio Governors Scott Walker and John Kasich with their anti-collective bargaining laws blush.

What Public Act 4 did is eviscerate local democracy and give a new tool to the corporatists who are constantly looking for opportunities to use crises to replace the Commons and democracy with a profit center.

It gives Governor Snyder the power to appoint what he calls are “Financial Managers” – or what are better described as “little dictators” – to take over entire cities that Governor Snyder deems are in a “financial emergency.”

Under the guise of getting a community’s finances in order, these little dictators move in, fire local elected officials, break local union contracts, slash budgets, cut back on public services, and hand over huge chunks of municipal commons like public parks and sewage plants over to private profiteers.

They have complete, autocratic control over the city and came make decisions unilaterally without any input from voters. This is what the death of democracy looks like.

As of Election Day, 2012, the little dictators were in control of cities like Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint, and Pontiac, as well as Detroit’s public school system.

When we asked Reverend David Bullock, the President of Rainbow PUSH Detroit, to come on the Big Picture earlier this year, we wanted to know first-hand what it was like living under one of Governor Snyder’s little dictators.

“What’s it like to live under dictatorship?!” Reverend Bullock asked rhetorically. “How about no police officers, how about limited firefighters, how about taking street lights out of cities so that people are in the dark, how about living with low morale and despair?”

That’s what it’s like for average, working – and now voiceless – citizens who are watching their local government dismantled under this law. Again and again in times of crisis – especially economic crisis – we’ve seen the corporatists move in for the kill.

As Naomi Klein documents in her book, Shock Doctrine, corporatist who preach privatization and radical free-market solutions pop up during times of tumult to capture control of economies and governments. It happened in Pinochet’s Chile in the 1970’s when the forces of corporate privatization crashed the economy for working people. It happened in New Orleans post-Katrina, when corporatists dismantled public housing projects damaged by the flood. It’s happening in Europe today as Greece’s commons are being bought up one-by-one until the entire nation becomes a Disney Land theme park for Europe’s most elite class.

And here in the United States, it’s happening in Michigan – in places like Detroit where unionized teachers were laid off to make way for privatized school and scab teachers, or in Benton Harbor where public parks enjoyed by low-income communities were taken over to build luxury golf courses for rich, white people who live in the next town over.

This is really happening. And, as local democracy dies, it becomes an increasing crisis for national democracy and could even be game over for the American experiment that started in 1776.

The stakes are really that high.

Michigan voters decided to fight back. With over 200,000 signatures, Public Act 4 was placed on the ballot as Proposal 1, giving voters the final say over whether or not they want the law. And, going into the election, a new poll by Public Policy Polling show Governor Snyder’s dictatorial law going down in defeat with 43% of Michiganders opposed to it, and only 35% in support.

But, with 18% of voters still undecided the day before Election Day, the law’s fate was still very much up in the air heading into Tuesday. Given how corporate money drastically eroded away support in California for Prop 37 requiring GMOs to be labeled, then we shouldn’t be celebrating too early in Michigan.

This fight is as important as any other fight on Election Day. Just as Scott Walker’s recall victory in Wisconsin was a boon to those who want to continue the destruction of organized labor, a victory for Governor Snyder’s law in Michigan would be a boon to the purveyors of crisis capitalism. Next, Wisconsin could lose their local democracy. Then, Florida. Then, Ohio.

Even if democracy wins out, and the crisis capitalists are kicked out of local government, we know they won’t stop looking for more opportunities to remake our communities into Ayn Rand corporate utopias. As Thomas Jefferson is often quoted as having said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

One Response to “Democracy Itself at Stake in Michigan”

  1. 1
    John S McGlinn Says:

    My dear friends and dissenters today I have cast my vote for President Barak Obama and have voted accordingly against the GOP congress that has forgotten the fundamental reason they were elected to compromise on idealogies on behalf a the common good of the nation. My reasons for doing so are as follows:
    1) The President has made as much progress overcoming the poor choices of the previous administration that I hold responsible for the burgeoning national debt as any person could given the obstructionism enacted by the GOP in the last two congressional sessions. The debt was increased to save our auto industry and to shore up a greedy financial system.
    2) The council of Bishops is wrong in urging the Catholic community to vote against Obama Care because of its failure to recognize the fundamental option to the poor. The church railed against having to pay for insurance that covers abortion and birth control when they could have afforded to pay th
    e tax and opt out of this type of coverage the institutional church is tax exempt and could have used some of that money to pay the tax as defined by the supreme court. I do not support abortion, capital punishment or unjust war, yet I pay the tax that supports 2 of the 3. In addition if the number of catholics practicing birth control was made public we’d all be guilty. thebishops have literally “thrown the baby out with the bath water”.
    3) The president has ended the war in Iraq, is in the process of pulling out of Afganistan, ended the terror of Osama Bin Laden, and reduced the defence spending of a nation that spends more on defence than Russia and China combined.
    4) Obama Care is the only meaningful legislation on health care in the past 50 years and if repealed as Romney has vowed will have a direct impact on the poor. I believe as do our european allies that both healthcare and education are fundamental rights and should be a priority in any budget considerations.
    5) Education is the prime resource that provides for an educated electorate, prosperity for all and is vital to our national defence. Mr. Romney does not have the passion for the difficulty the poor face in getting an education because he has never known sweat of manual labor and did not have to pay for his education. This business where the elite are the only entitled ones has to stop or the situation we now face will only get worse. The President is in touch with poor because of his upbringing.

    I could go on but many of you have already determined the course of our country. God willing you chose President Obama.

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