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December 27, 2011 1:25 PM Tea Party governance gone horribly awry

By Steve Benen

Officials in Troy, Michigan, worked for years to build a local transportation center, and the Obama administration agreed to fully fund the project with federal stimulus money. In fact, the local community would have received an $8.5 million grant to cover all of the costs, with no strings attached.

But Troy’s elected leaders decided to turn down the money. Their Tea Party principles told them it was a bad idea.

The terminal, which would help Troy become a transportation node on an upgraded Detroit-to-Chicago Amtrak line, was hailed by supporters as a way to create jobs and to spur economic development. But federal money is federal money, so with the urging of the new mayor, who helped found the local Tea Party chapter, the City Council cast a 4-to-3 vote this week against granting a crucial contract, sending the project into limbo.

“There’s nothing free about government money,” Mayor Janice Daniels said in an interview. “It’s never free, and it’s crippling our way of life.” […]

The Troy transit center’s construction … required no local contribution, and its predicted annual maintenance cost of $31,000 was, in the context of the city’s $50 million budget, “de minimis,” said Mark Miller, the assistant city manager.

Troy’s ridiculous, right-wing mayor justifies the decision by saying it’s more important to pay down the federal debt than it is to create jobs in her community. This only helps underscore one of the problems with Tea Party governance: it’s often based on striking ignorance (the $8.5 million grant will now go to help create jobs in some other area, not go back to the Treasury to pay down the debt).

Even Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who’s proving to be a very conservative Republican, sent a letter to Daniels before the vote, explaining that the federally-funded project would have “significant, positive economic development on your community and the state.” It didn’t matter.

The Troy Chamber of Commerce, which worked for years to help with the plans for the transportation center, is reportedly outraged by the city council’s stupidity, and the president of a local manufacturing company said the community could use the economic boost the transit center would have provided, but will now go without.

There’s a fair number of voters who believe liberal Democrats are bad for the business community. That is, of course, backwards — it’s not the left opposed to economic development and public investments; it’s the hysterical right.

Steve M. encouraged business leaders to take a moment to consider “what they were doing to themselves when they threw in with the Ayn Rand Fan Club. Maybe they should ask themselves who’s helping them more, the president who insults them occasionally but hasn’t thrown a single one of them in jail, or people like Janice Daniels who love capitalism the way a stalker loves a celebrity.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • maryQ on December 27, 2011 1:35 PM:

    I don't get it. Is the problem that there is no other town in Michigan who could use the $8.5 million to build a transportation center, hire the people who know how to plan these things, hire people to work to build the center, who then spend moony in the local economy, and sit back and laugh as Troy crumbles into nothingness?
    I'm just not seeing a problem here.

  • ORgone on December 27, 2011 1:38 PM:


    This kind of sabatoge on our communities is happening on the levels of City, County, and State governments,all the way down to our school boards. (We) being not just liberals, or democrats, or republicans but those with common sense must organize, run for office, campaign wholeheartedly and "move em out.

  • jcricket on December 27, 2011 1:40 PM:

    So here's the problem - these f*ckers never really "pay" for ruining their towns. The average Jo-Blow Republican continues to blame some nebulous "gov't" or "welfare queens" or whatever for the crumbling of their town. And they keep voting Republican.

    And even if the town does crumble, some other big liberal city nearby ends up paying the price to accomodate the poor people in the hospitals, schools, etc.

    I'm done. If they don't want a bailout, they don't get one. The rural way of life and the vast majority of people that keep voting for Republicans should get what they want - no subsidies. And if they can't get mail, have no schools, have no hospitals, have crumbling roads, and their power infrastructure crumbles, so be it. It's the logical result of their philosophy, so they can either live it, or STFU.

  • Doctor Whom on December 27, 2011 1:40 PM:

    I really don't get this. Just what kind of country do these teabaggers want to live in?

  • c u n d gulag on December 27, 2011 1:46 PM:

    Well, you can lead horses asses to water, but you can't make them think.

    And I'm sorry, but if you don't want results like this, you idiots, then inform yourselves better before you go out and vote!

    Because too many times recently, you people bitch AFTER you've already voted for the person who is going to go against your best interests.

    So, Troy, congratulations, you voted for her!
    Probably, in your own minds, to make some stupid point or other.
    Now, revel in it!

    The rest of us will just revel in your misery.
    Ok, not really revel in your misery - just laugh at your stupidity.

    There but for the grace of goodness goes any of our towns, too!
    Because almost no area is short of morons and knuckleheads who do go out and vote - even if the don't know who or what the f*ck they're voting for.

  • beejeez on December 27, 2011 1:51 PM:

    I guess Troy voters would rather see their federal tax dollars spent someplace other than Troy. Enjoy your mayor, morons!

  • sick -n-effin-tired on December 27, 2011 1:52 PM:

    Been there done that .Our Douchebag Felon Governor Rick Scott of Florida Turned down 24 billion for High speed rail in one of the most rapid transit deficient states in the union. Same argument. That money went to he Northeast corridor who said thank you very much. Contractors were lined up to create thousands of jobs .
    Republicans and their teabag wing hate America and its people They are fucking nuts, doing everything they can to destroy Obama and Democrats by destroying the country.

  • internet tough guy on December 27, 2011 1:53 PM:

    ten bux sez the Chamber supported this jackass.

    Reap what you sow, CoC.

  • sherifffruitfly on December 27, 2011 2:02 PM:

    (shrug) Electorates deserve, what electorates vote for.

  • stevio on December 27, 2011 2:02 PM:

    I guess I'll never understand these morons. New jobs means tax increase that go to the feds that help it to become more solvent, not less. In addition, the local economy gets a boosts from the revenues generated by what is spent by the workers building the damned thing not to mention the jobs. Oh did i already say that? Morons...

  • Hedda Peraz on December 27, 2011 2:04 PM:

    My dear, DEAR friend, and esteemed colleague, from Across the Aisle, the Hon. Gulag, mentions horses. Or parts thereof.

    Why, one must inquire, do we even need trains, when we have so many horses available?
    And, if perchance, there is a dearth of horseflesh up North, we have ample supplies here in the Lone Star State. Cash on the barrelhead; no Federal Subsidies accepted!

  • johnny canuck on December 27, 2011 2:04 PM:

    As usual Benen understates right wing stupidity. In the link, there is mention of Magna International. It is a small company involved in automotive parts. It has 275 manufacturing operations and 85 product development, engineering and sales centres in 26 countries.
    It employs 50,000 in North America, a third of that in USA. Their US headquarters are in Troy Michigan. This is how one of their executives responded to Mayor Teaparty:

    “I am drafting a memo to all Magna group presidents and our Magna corporate executives strongly recommending that Magna International no longer consider the City of Troy for future site considerations, expansions or new job creation,” wrote Frank W. Ervin III, the company’s manager of government affairs. “I have also recommended that where ever and when ever possible we reduce our footprint and employment level in Troy” in favor of communities that act in the best interests of residents and business and that do “not simply use their public position to advance their own private agenda.”

    So much for Republican job creators

  • N.Wells on December 27, 2011 2:04 PM:

    Troy didn't have much to commend it when I lived there, although it has built up unrecognizably since then. Still, it is impressively distant from any straight line that one cares to draw from Detroit to Chicago, so it must have been selected on the principle of "Detroit sensu lato to Chicago, while trying to avoid Detroit sensu stricto like the plague". I imagine that officials from Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, etc. must be rubbing their hands over maps of the rail line rights-of-way through their communities.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on December 27, 2011 2:07 PM:

    I pity the fool...

    Not to be wishing undue misery on small town America, but here's hoping that the New Year brings more episodes like this to the fore so that we can start using concrete examples as to the kind of blight batshit, far-right Teacup economics and governance can bring America. Here's to another Obama term as well as some more Democrats (or just non-tea party yo-yos)in local, state, and federal government.

    Keep it up, Asshats!!!

  • wihntr on December 27, 2011 2:11 PM:

    Same story for us here in Cheeselandia when Gov Koch-head turnded down $800 million in federal high speed rail money as soon as he took office because once the thing was built it might cost Wisconsin as much as $7 million a year to maintain the infrastructure. Of course it also would have resulted in the creation of hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs. But still, like the lady said, Federal money is never free money!"


  • Danp on December 27, 2011 2:13 PM:

    While the Chamber is probably upset, my guess is that there are a lot of people in and near Troy who don't want more people getting off there. There will be people scaring them about traffic congestion, property taxes, urban sprawl, etc. Oh, well. Someone will find Troy in a few thousand years and wonder how civilization thrived there once.

  • ack ack ack on December 27, 2011 2:23 PM:

    Troy really chose quite the a$$hat. Mrs. Daniels made headlines a month back for some homophobic Facebook postings about gay marriage:

    "I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there."

  • AK Liberal on December 27, 2011 2:25 PM:

    The Troy Chamber of Commerce, which worked for years to help with the plans for the transportation center, is reportedly outraged by the city council’s stupidity...

    Clearly the local Chamber of Commerce has been infiltrated by communist sympathizers.

  • Andrew on December 27, 2011 2:30 PM:

    @ N. Wells: That's because the Amtrak line goes up to Pontiac after stopping in Detroit.

  • zandru on December 27, 2011 2:31 PM:

    Doesn't Michigan Nationalize Poorly-Performing Municipalities?

    Wasn't it Michigan that voted to allow the Governor to declare a city government to have "failed", and take it over, to be run by his designated professionals?

  • pj in jesusland on December 27, 2011 2:34 PM:

    How does Mayor Daniels think the debt will be paid down if Troy residents aren't receiving a paycheck?

    Maybe she thinks if we ask the Koch brothers to buy a few more monogrammed shirts in 2012 that will generate enough new tax revenue. Or maybe she believes in the Debt Fairy.

    All I can say is, Florida and Troy, Michigan are getting what they voted for.

  • tolkien on December 27, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Aside from the many moronic ways the mayor is wrong here, she is right in at least one thing: federal money isn't free. People who claim it is are sadly mistaken. The way to see the federal money in this case is that the people of Troy came up with a project that is likely to help the community AND stimulate the economy, generally helping everyone do a bit better. Unfortunately the up front cost is fairly high (though not compared to the eventual benefits). As the project is seen as not only benefiting Troy but also, to some extent, everyone else through tourism, and the wealthier people of Troy buying products elsewhere, and as the people of Troy are citizens of the US, the people of the US as a whole (as represented by their government) decided to chip in and help start this project. At other times, the people of the US will help start similar useful projects in other places.

    This is a perfect example of government working, as an expression of the of, for and by the people. How sad that our government is regarded as some kind of separate entity, completely divorced from us, when it wants to help us out in this way, and yet corporations are embraced as members of the people when, in fact, their only motives are how they can screw people and communities as much as possible.

  • David Martin on December 27, 2011 2:41 PM:

    As has been noted, Florida governor Rick Scott turned down 2.4 billion for a high speed rail line whose right-of-way was already mostly in existence, thanks to careful planning when I-4 from Tampa to Orlando was rebuilt.

    The premise seems to be that Amtrak and all other passenger rail is a socialist proposition, and a terrible waste of taxpayer money. For the mayor of Troy, the issue was probably not so much the train station as the need to get rid of Amtrak service from Detroit to Chicago.

  • N.Wells on December 27, 2011 2:52 PM:

    Andrew, thanks for the explanation. I recalled only getting on the train in Detroit and heading due west, basically paralleling I-94.

  • jrosen on December 27, 2011 2:54 PM:

    If you want to live by 18th century values, then you need to have an 18th century mindset and an infrastructure to match. (Cars pollute the air, but horses dump sh*t on the street.)

    When I lived in Detroit (30+ years ago) Troy (a near suburb) was something of a joke. I guess nothing really changes, except possibly for the worse.

  • Ron Byers on December 27, 2011 3:28 PM:

    Some years ago our city elected a crazy bigotted idiot of a populist mayor. The city had spent years promoting an exchange with a Japanese city that was headquarters for a company the economic development department was courting. The dumbass mayor torpedoed their years of work in an afternoon. Nobody paid any attention to the populist mayor from that point on. The mayor pro tem took on the meet and greet functions. The dumb ass wasn't reelected. It took a long time to smooth over the feathers of several Japanese business leaders.

    The Tea Party won't last long in Troy, Michigan. The city leaders will crush them at the next opportunity.

  • Joe Friday on December 27, 2011 3:35 PM:

    "But Troy's elected leaders decided to turn down the money. Their Tea Party principles told them it was a bad idea."

    Dumb as a box of rocks.

  • Charles Almon on December 27, 2011 4:21 PM:

    Janice of Troy -the face that launched a thousand shits.

  • Wilson on December 27, 2011 5:12 PM:

    Winger state and local politicians throwing back rail money makes some sense in a twisted way. If constituents actually had good encounters with Amtrak instead of just hearing the name as a parodic exemplar of creeping socialism, they might take a different view generally of federal investment in public goods.

  • Americanitis1 on December 27, 2011 6:34 PM:

    Right. And I bet Mayor Janice Daniels continues to draw her government paycheck while her town slips back to the 19th Century. Why not reject that government money, since we're being all ideologically pure and whatnot?

    What never ceases to amaze me is that these rightwing nutcases don't ever seem to get that it's the taxpayer's money. Unless, you know, it's a tax cut for rich people. Then they see it that way. But if it's going to be spent on, you know, economic development or public programs that will help more than a handful of millionaires/billionaires, then it's "dirty government money that we can't possibly take" for some reason. If the government is willing to hand some of it back to local constituents in the form of local development that could actually create jobs - unlike handing it hand over fist to rich people they call "Job Creators" who will sock it away for their heirs - how can they justify turning it down? I mean, with a straight face? And while cashing a government paycheck???

  • DCGadfly on December 28, 2011 11:13 PM:

    Hey my fellow progressive commentators, I don't think you get it. The mayor and her supporters in Troy and their ilk in Florida, Arizona, etc, etc, all love the results of their actions. This is what they want, to bring the government and our way of life down to destruction and resultant crisis. Many of them know that the federal funds will bring benefits to the public which would make the public happy with the federal government which the radical right wing Republicans believe is necessary to build a new America in their demented image. Don't hope for logic. Work for change.

  • bevyboop on December 30, 2011 7:17 PM:

    For those who don't know logistics of transportation in metro-Detroit area (includes Troy), let me enlighten you. The vast, vast majority of people here has their own car. Everyone here KNOWS that the ONLY people here who use trains or buses are poor (read black) people. If she can keep the train out of Troy, she can keep poor (blacks)out of Troy.

    Yes, it's hay-wired economic thinking. But I am positive this is more racially motivated than financial.

  • Patrick on December 31, 2011 3:07 AM:

    "How does Mayor Daniels think the debt will be paid down if Troy residents aren't receiving a paycheck?"

    Mayor Daniels ISN'T thinking.

  • Thaag on December 31, 2011 1:12 PM:

    GOP to Fed: Quit sending money to other countries when we have so many problems to solve in our own!
    Fed to GOP: OK here's some money to build a better public transportation infrastructure, making lots of jobs and tax revenues.
    GOP to Fed: Fuck that shit.

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