Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 15, 2011

REDEFINING GOVERNMENTAL 'POWER GRABS'.... If there's one thing we know about the conservative Republican ideology, it's that they love local control and they loathe governmental power-grabs.

Except, that is, when they believe the opposite.

Recent developments in Michigan and its new Republican administration are so astounding, I literally didn't believe the reports when they first came out. And yet, shocking though they may be, those reports are true and represent a genuine assault on a credible system of government.

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.

You might be thinking, "C'mon, that can't be right." I'm afraid it is. Michigan's new Republican governor is cutting funding to municipalities, and if they struggle financially as a consequence, he will have the power to simply take over those municipalities if he believes he should.

And once Snyder does take over these local governments, by virtue of his own whims, he can impose a local dictator -- called an "Emergency Manager" -- who will have the authority to undo collective bargaining agreements, scrap contracts, and even undo the results of elections.

And if that weren't quite enough, the local dictator, at the behest of the new Republican governor or a designated corporate ally, can even "disincorporate or dissolve" an entire municipal government -- effectively making a local government disappear -- without any input from the public whatsoever.

I'm completely serious.

And by the way, the Tea Party crowd -- those folks who worry about excessive government overreach and power-grabs -- thinks all of this is just great.

One of the Republican state lawmakers who supports this effort characterized the plan as "financial martial law" -- and as far as he's concerned, that's not a criticism, that's a defense for this little scheme.

All of this, by the way, is being pushed by Gov. Rick Snyder (R), after just two months on the job. He's the same rookie governor who's desperate to slash corporate taxes in Michigan, while raising taxes on the working poor.

All of those voters who thought it'd be a good idea to elect a bunch of Republicans in 2010? I really wish they'd done just a little more homework before heading to the polls.

Steve Benen 10:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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and check out Pa where the new gov wants his buddy-coal baron and big contributor Walker-to have the power to abrogate any permitting regulation that might impede job creation...or inconvenience the oil/gas/coal folks

Posted by: sue on March 15, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Michigan? Why does "Robocop" come to mind?

Posted by: Tigershark on March 15, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Wish I had the source in front of me, because I forget where i read it. But, I believe it is unconsitutional for a state to renege on its own obligations of a contract without the other side conceding to those changes in the contract. Meaning basically that the state cannot unilaterally sack things such as teacher's contracts. This was upheld in the Supreme Court in the 1930's (1937 if i remember correctly). It may only be a speed bump though.

Posted by: scrow774 on March 15, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Ya down wit OCP?

Posted by: boogeyboo on March 15, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Snyder did an excellent job hiding his stripes during the election. He has never run for office before, so there was scant little record to go on. He posed as a moderate centrist and fooled a lot of people. It's sad.

Posted by: sue on March 15, 2011 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

You all shouldve realized by now that when conservatives are talking about big government they mean government in the way of things republicans like. Republicans dont mind big government if they are in charge. In fact big government is all they know. Im betting michigan citizens arent too happy about this shit.

Posted by: allamr18 on March 15, 2011 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Not just elected - elected in a landslide by the same population that got the auto industry bailed out by a Democratic national administration. Caveat emptor.

Posted by: jomo on March 15, 2011 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Of course the teabaggers think this is great. This is exactly the sort of thing the founding fathers, Adolf and Benito, had in mind.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 15, 2011 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Americans have the same problem that house-cats have - when life is good their brains shrink.

Americans are stupid. Face it..

Posted by: Moxo on March 15, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

"I really wish they'd done just a little more homework before heading to the polls." I'm guessing most of those voters never did much homework anyway.

Posted by: T2 on March 15, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

This is what the people of Michigan wanted. I mean, a landslide? idiots. the other 38-39% of Michigan who voted the correct way? very very sorry- my condolences.

Posted by: Alli on March 15, 2011 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Someone beat me to it, but it looks like Snyder's taking his cues from the script writers for Robocop.

I'll buy that for a dollar!

Posted by: Winkandanod on March 15, 2011 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Not to worry- we still those "Second Amendment Remedies".

The question is- how many more assaults on the Constitution will the masses take, before 'assaulting' back?

Posted by: DAY on March 15, 2011 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

I doubt homework would have helped. If you had told me a year ago that anyone would seriously try something like this I would have laughed at you.

Posted by: Z. Mulls on March 15, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK
Meaning basically that the state cannot unilaterally sack things such as teacher's contracts.

They most certainly can. And the aggrieved party has little recourse in Federal court. Your only hope is that the state involved allows itself to be sued.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on March 15, 2011 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

He is seizing emergency power , really nothing to see here . After cleaning up all those post Dickens aberrations , all will be well .

Posted by: FRP on March 15, 2011 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

And Parker v. Wakelin suggests state worker pensions are not covered by 'impairment of contracts', either.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on March 15, 2011 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

What is the recall heat , if any , starting to look like there ?

Posted by: FRP on March 15, 2011 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone can buy OCP stock. What could be more democratic than that??

Posted by: Grumpy on March 15, 2011 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

This is Conservatism in a nutshell:

They vote for authoritarian Daddy/Mommy figures who'll praise them, but spank their whining siblings.

This marks the end of todays psychological examination of Republicans.

Read in again tomorrow and every day, 'cause it ain't gonna change.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 15, 2011 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I think Naomi Klein wrote Shock Doctrine as a warning, not as a guidebook.

Posted by: martin on March 15, 2011 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Working under the radar, which is easily accomplished because of the utter lack of awareness and reportage by our laughable "news media," Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio -- and more states to come -- are quietly, unobtrusively, and clandestinely staging mini-coups to overthrow our national government, one state at a time.

It will not be long before it will be far too late to stop this under-the-radar destruction of the fundamental fabric of governance in the United States.

Too bad we have no real leadership in our political system. The Republicans don't want to offend their "base" and the Democrats couldn't field a credible leader if they tried. And the president? He's too pre-occupied with criticizing bullies in our schools to take action against bullies in our state governments.

Posted by: Buffalo Harold on March 15, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Rachel Maddow went off on this last Wednesday and I'm still gobsmacked by the power grab and by how little attention this has been getting. (She had Naomi Klein on as her guest because, obviously, this "shock doctrine" is exactly what Klein's been warning about for years.) Adding insult to injury, Snyder has already announced huge cuts in funds going to local municipalities so he's essentially making sure that most towns will be put into financial emergencies. Are the people of Michigan so beaten down that they're willing to see their towns dissolved and local elected officials summarily dismissed in favor of some mini-dictator backed by big business? Where the hell is the outrage???

Posted by: 3reddogs on March 15, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Aimed at Detroit, of course.

Posted by: rea on March 15, 2011 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Just a heads up - this bill is in fact total crap, but the crappy things about it were to a large degree already in place in the form of the "Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act", aka MI Act 72 of 1990, see here.

So, not a total innovation on Snyder's part, but it still sucks.

Posted by: russell on March 15, 2011 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Working under the radar, which is easily accomplished because of the utter lack of awareness and reportage by our laughable "news media," Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio -- and more states to come -- are quietly, unobtrusively, and clandestinely staging mini-coups to overthrow our national government, one state at a time.

Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, of course, will be critical states for Obama's re-election bid. And a Wisconsin Republican was quoted admitting that the union-busting was about hurting the Democratic power base, not fiscal matters at all (surprise, surprise).

There's nothing "mini" about this coup at all.

(Then again, it's interesting to note that these are the tactics Republicans need to adopt in order to promote their corporatist agenda, which suggests that actual small-D democracy is like kryptonite to them.)

Posted by: Gregory on March 15, 2011 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

What' the zip code for Aramark, MI?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on March 15, 2011 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Snyder: Small government = I am King!

Posted by: sue on March 15, 2011 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Emergency Manager" - Interesting, he did not call the position an Emergency Czar. However, I am positive he really prefers Gauleiter.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 15, 2011 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Well, just so long as he doesn't appoint any purely advisory czars, because that would be outrageous.

Posted by: Jim Pharo on March 15, 2011 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Now we see conservative flim-flammery at its most precious. These are get-rich quick schemes for cronies, who expect no more than a slap on the wrist once their abuses are finally reined in. Always, always follow the money, not the words. They are doing this under the banner of small government, and are fully utilizing their ownership of the MSM as disinformation outlets, as if they were at war. Hence "nobody is talking about it". As more and more money and power are concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the insanity of a few can become a crisis for us all. History is strewn with examples of government-by-nutcase.

Posted by: Keeping Track on March 15, 2011 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

This is the same crazed scenario that Paul Bremer was empowered or authorized to institute in Iraq after the shock and awe campaign. That worked out really well for all around, no?

This is INSANITY, a home-grown totalitarianism that really needs to be stopped dead in its tracks.

If these dictators ever permit elections again, I know the people will be wiser. But is it too late?

Posted by: jjm on March 15, 2011 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK
and even undo the results of elections.

Is there any way this could stand up to a Constitutional challenge?

Posted by: a different phil on March 15, 2011 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

While I'm sickened at this news, part of me really doesn't care anymore. If people are goddamned stupid enough to keep putting Republicans into power over and over and over and over again, based on nothing more than vicious GOP campaigns of ridiculous lies and wholesale fear-mongering, what can you do, except get to the point where you start concentrating on keeping your own life together amidst all the insanity?

Posted by: June on March 15, 2011 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

But he didn't give all businesses a tax break, he eliminated the tax incentives that the movie industry recieves to make movies in Michigan. I wonder if it has anything to do with that liberal movie industry???

Naaaaaa

Posted by: jhill on March 15, 2011 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's just his little way of saying "Come back home Ted Nugent, all is foregiven."

Posted by: martin on March 15, 2011 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

You hit the nail on the head with this comment: "All of those voters who thought it'd be a good idea to elect a bunch of Republicans in 2010? I really wish they'd done just a little more homework before heading to the polls." That's what's wrong with American electoral politics - people don't pay attention and vote for change without any idea what they're voting for (or against). Pay attention, people!

Posted by: Wayne on March 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

I prefer "Emergency Manager" in the original Latin.

Posted by: Gregory on March 15, 2011 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Several groups are trying to get a recall going, (though he needs to have served 6-mos before signatures can be collected). But removing him, while symbollic and satisfying, won't necessarily fix our problems in MI. The repubs had a clean sweep, and have EXTREME radical rightwingers in the next 3 offices which succeed Snyder if he is recalled. We have a LOT of work to clean up the teabagg-poop here.

Posted by: G.Kerby on March 15, 2011 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
-- George W. Bush, December 18, 2000

hla@10:44 FTW! Now I have to clean my monitor...

Posted by: josef on March 15, 2011 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Once the recall starts to take shape watch these puritans become twenty first century people .

Posted by: FRP on March 15, 2011 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

This was exactly what the Founders--especially Madison--were worried about. The violation of individual and minority rights by local and state majorities. That's why they forbid states to pass laws which would violate contracts--exactly what Snyder wants to do.

Posted by: Reference Librarian on March 15, 2011 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Is there any way this could stand up to a Constitutional challenge?" a different phil @ 2:30 PM.

Constitution of the United States, Article IV, Section 4:
"The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a Republican Form of Government..."

I really doubt the writers of the Constitution meant THAT sort of Republican(/Teabagger) form...

Posted by: Doug on March 15, 2011 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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