We thought we had it bad in Ohio, where S.B. 5 is about to gut collective bargaining for public employees. But events in Michigan are making Ohio and Wisconsin look like paragons of moderation. Here’s the short version, via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:
Republican Michigan governor Rick Snyder, along with the state’s Republican house and senate, have passed a controversial bill that allows the governor to dissolve the elected governments of Michigan’s towns and cities, replacing them with unaccountable “emergency financial managers” who can eliminate services, merge or eliminate school boards, and lay off or renegotiate unionized public employees without recourse. Republican senator Jack Brandenburg — who supported the measure — calls it “financial martial law.”
While local governments are subject to electoral recall by residents, the “managers” the governor appoints will answer only to the state legislature. There are no limits to the salary “managers” may draw (an amendment that would have limited their compensation to $159,000, which is the governor’s own salary, was defeated).
“Managers” will be able to govern as they see fit. Practically speaking, this opens the door to the kind of “governance” we’ve seen in occupied Iraq, where high-paid appointees who don’t answer to the governed get to award no-bid contracts to their pals, with little or no oversight or control.
I guess that means Blackwater may be moving into Detroit? Halliburton could take over Ann Arbor? If this law weren’t about subverting democracy, the state could provide consultants, not mini-dictators, to those municipalities that really are hurting. While I do recognize Michigan is suffering economically, authoritarianism is not the answer – unless Governor Snyder hopes to transform Michigan into a satellite state of China.
This really would deserve a lengthy post about the “shock doctrine” and how far we’ve moved toward fascism in the United States. That’s a bigger job than I can handle on a Saturday evening. Let’s just say that at this week’s hearings on the EPIC “body-scanner” lawsuit against TSA abuses of privacy, government attorney Beth Brinkmann asserted that it was within the authority of the TSA to order body cavity searches without any public input (h/tLisa Simeone). Let’s just mention that efforts are being made to disenfranchise students in New Hampshire – so far, unsuccessfully.
But back to Michigan. I’m sort of embarrassed to post a Rachel Maddow clip twice in one day – honestly, you could just go straight to MSNBC and skip the Kitteh! – but she nails it once again. The Michigan law (which passed subsequent to this broadcast) is beyond draconian. It is, as Rachel says, dystopian. It undermines the most rudimentary requirements for democracy: the popular election of officials through a free and fair process. It shits upon the rule of law. (Rachel didn’t say that; she is classier than I.)