If you thought it couldn’t get any worse than Wisconsin, think again. Right here in our own backyard, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is pushing a budget proposal that would deal a horrific blow to economic and political democracy in our state. Here are the details:
In a party line vote, and despite impassioned speeches of protest by the body’s Democratic minority, the Michigan Senate approved legislation that threatens to take over and even dissolve local governments that refuse to balance their budgets by breaking labor contracts.
According to the law, which has already been approved in the House, the governor will be able to declare “financial emergency” in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services.
Under the law whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down.
So the law has provisions that make Wisconsin-esque union busting possible, but that’s not the worst of it. These emergency financial managers’ ability to fire elected officials is a blatant subversion of democracy. What’s more, as Rachel Maddow points out, the Michigan House version of this bill allows the financial managers to be corporations. In other words, if the House bill became law, a business could be running your municipal government if the governor decided your town was experiencing a “financial emergency.”
Together with the provisions of the bill that allow for privatization of municipal assets, permit the termination of union contracts, and raise taxes on seniors and the poor while offsetting this revenue with business tax cuts, we cannot doubt the purpose of this legislation: it is an unconstitutional attempt to expropriate wealth from the working and middle classes while eliminating their ability to do anything about it. Many businesses certainly aren’t complaining. This is an unconscionable act, and I hope that we will see the rage and indignation of Michiganders expressed on the scale of the Madison protests.
Needless to say, the University’s decision to have Governor Snyder as this year’s commencement speaker will probably prove to be more than a little controversial. There is already a petition to change the commencement speaker and a protest planned for Wednesday, paralleling the Lansing protests that are expected to ramp up this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if UM students continue to make some noise about this until the administration responds.
Be sure to check out Rachel Maddow on the legislation:
(Image from Wikipedia used under a Creative Commons license.)