Oh, let's not forget another major cause that Snyder & Company don't want discussed: His $1 billion cut in corporate taxes. This increased the state's budget hole, which he helped fill by slashing or eliminating state funds and tax credits that went to local school districts, low-income workers, and seniors.
The LGSDFA coup against local democracy does absolutely nothing to address -- much less fix -- these actual causes of the financial crises that mayors and other elected officials face. And by the way, since when did self-styled, small-government "conservatives" become such gleeful champions of using centralized governmental power to whack the once-hallowed Republican tenet of local control? Indeed, to see the irony of their governor trampling their democratic rights, Michigan citizens need look no further than the website of the state Republican Party. Right up front, it proudly posts a list of nine inviolate GOP principles, including this gem: "The most effective, responsible, and responsive government is government closest to the people."Spawn of the Kochs
While corporate plutocrats rant about out-of-control government regulators, they do not really hate big, invasive, authoritarian government -- as long as they can own it and use it for their own needs. This is why such multi-billionaire corporatists as Charles and David Koch have been pumping truckloads of money into dozens of front groups like the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan. Set up 25 years ago and linked to a network of Koch-headed centers in nearly every state, Mackinac is an idea factory and advocate for shrinking people power and enhancing corporate control.
While it refuses to name its super-wealthy individual backers on the absurd grounds that disclosure "would be a tremendous diversion," the Center does have to report donations from "charitable funds," which includes money from a host of corporate foundations tied to the Koch brothers -- Domino's Pizza, Amway, Coors, GM, ExxonMobil, JPMorgan Chase, and Walmart, among others.
In 2005, one of Mackinac's grand ideas was put forth in an essay written by a privatizing enthusiast named Louis Schimmel, who was the Center's director of municipal finance. Noting that Michigan already had a limited program for sending state managers to aid cities engulfed in a fiscal crisis, he argued that the law should be radically expanded to create an emergency financial manager with autocratic power to take control of Detroit's troubled budget. Specifically, Schimmel's Mackinac proposal called for four fundamental changes: (1) the financial overseer would "replace and take on the powers of the governing body"; (2) have sole discretion to alter the governing charter; (3) be immune from lawsuits; and (4) have the power to alter and ultimately abolish union contracts.
After Snyder won and the GOP gained big majorities in both legislative chambers in November 2010, the Mackinac Center moved quickly to reprint and circulate Schimmel's paper. Lo and behold, the governor's LGSDFA proposal, which seemed to come out of the blue three months later, actually came out of the Koch boys' Mackinac machine. Snyder's bill included all four of Schimmel's democracy-usurping components, as well as other authoritarian add-ons presumably drafted by the Center.
With a solid, lock-step majority in both the state senate and house, Snyder and Republican legislative leaders were able to railroad the full extremist package into law. The GOP slapped down even the most token gestures to local governance -- for example, a little amendment that merely would've required EFMs to hold monthly public meetings -- so locals could be told what changes their czar was making -- got crushed in the senate.
Respect the rule of law? Ha! For half a century, Michigan has had a constitutional rule that a new law doesn't take effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends -- thus giving affected citizens time to adjust or try to repeal it. By a two-thirds vote in each house, however, a law can be declared an emergency and allowed to take effect immediately.
With a super-majority in the senate, GOP members easily rushed their EFM measure into effect, but in the house, the party is 10 votes short of the necessary two-thirds tally. No problem -- they simply cheated by pulling a quick count and lying about the result. The presiding officer of the house barked out the following in one breathless, three-second sentence: "Themajorityleaderhasrequestedimmediateeffect AllthoseinfavorpleaseriseImmediateeffectisordered."
We're to believe that in only three seconds, he called for a vote, the members got to their feet, he was able to count two-thirds of them standing in favor, and he gaveled the law into effect. Magical!Plutocrats in action
Let's go to Pontiac, a once proud city boasting that one of America's iconic cars was named after it and made there, employing 23,000 auto workers in the General Motors factory. Today, though, those jobs have been moved out-of-state or eliminated, the Pontiac brand itself has been jettisoned by GM, the city's population has dropped, property values have plummeted, and the city government has been left in a fiscal wreck. To add to its miseries, Gov. Snyder's cutbacks in revenue sharing mean that Pontiac's funds have been slashed by a third.
The governor did give something to the people of Pontiac, though: An emergency manager. Appointed last September for an indefinite period (he's still there), he promptly relieved the city council of their powers and salaries. Then he fired the city attorney, clerk, and director of public works before acting on his own to outsource the work of various departments. Next, he offered up about half of the people's property in a fire sale of assets -- including city hall, police and fire stations, the library, water-pumping stations, a golf course, and two cemeteries. More recently, he has issued five edicts undermining contracts with union workers and retirees.
Who is this guy? Louis Schimmel, the privatizer man from Mackinac!
Asked last year if the EFM law made him a dictator, Schimmel conceded with a sigh: "I guess I'm the tyrant in Pontiac."
On to Benton Harbor, the home of Whirlpool Corporation and once the major producer of that giant's appliances. Whirlpool's executives, market analysts, and other top-paid employees still are based in Benton Harbor, ensconced in the corporation's brand-new, gleaming, tax-subsidized $68 million corporate campus in this town on the shores of Lake Michigan. But, beginning in the 1980s, the bosses have steadily emptied out all of their local factories, moving Benton Harbor's manufacturing jobs abroad to cut labor costs.