In the future, when historians look at America’s experiment with a representative democratic form of government that worked for over 200 years, they will wonder why the voters empowered corporations to take over and run the country. Although the federal government maintains a semblance of democratic representation, it and some states are controlled by special interest groups and corporations that influence legislators and write much of the legislation that becomes the law of the land.
In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder (R) has officiated over a naked power grab in the form of House Bill 4214 that enables Snyder to appoint an emergency manager to govern over cities, school districts, or any public entity he deems necessary. If any American wondered what America’s demise might look like, they can look at Michigan to see how voters gave a dictator the authority to seize power from the people and install corporate rule. If the trend continues spreading from state to state, America will be controlled by a board of directors and a CEO; elections will be banned as unnecessary.
Snyder, a former corporate executive who at one point was partner-in-charge of mergers and acquisitions, took office on January 1, 2011 and wasted little time instituting corporate rule in Michigan. The emergency financial manager law Snyder signed gave him unrestricted power to appoint other corporate shills to take over any public entity Snyder deemed to be in a financial emergency. In Benton Harbor, the emergency manager disbanded the city and took all power from the elected officials. The order to disband follows:
WHEREAS, now, no City Board, Commission or Authority has authority or power to act on behalf of the City as provided in the Act.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:
1. Absent prior express written authorization and approval by the Emergency Manager, no City Board, Commission or Authority shall take any action for or on behalf of the City whatsoever other than:
i) Call a meeting to order. ii) Approve of meeting minutes. iii) Adjourn a meeting.
2. That all prior resolutions, or acts of any kind of the City in conflict herewith are and the same shall be, to the extent of such conflict, rescinded.
3. This order shall be effective immediately.
The order above was the first power grab by Snyder’s henchmen and it effectively signals a dictatorship that removes governance from legally elected officials. Buried inside the emergency manager law are provisions that disallow any elected official from running for or serving in public office for ten years as punishment for being elected. One must wonder what the voters who elected the city officials are thinking, and if they believe in democracy any more. It is extremely generous of the manager to allow City authorities to call meetings to order and approve the minutes of a meeting. It is also astounding that the manager is allowed to rescind all laws that were previously passed by democratically elected officials, but dictators have unlimited powers.
In Detroit, an emergency manager sent layoff notices to every single teacher in the district because of declining enrollment and a budget shortfall. It is noteworthy that when the manager, Robert Bobb began overseeing the Detroit schools in 2009, the deficit was $200 million; it is currently $327 million. If Bobb is such a wonderful financial manager, why did he wait until the deficit grew by $127 million before taking action, and how did he grow the deficit in less than two years? Regardless of Bobb’s fiscal malfeasance, there is a more sinister aspect to the power grab and it has been in the works for years.
One of the adjustments Snyder has made to the emergency financial manager law is the ability to appoint a corporation to take over operations of a city, school district, or correctional facility. For the Detroit school system, Bobb intends to convert one-third of the schools to charter schools and already began taking bids from private corporations, but the bidding process will certainly be tainted, because in addition to his emergency manager salary of $280,000, Bobb receives $145,000 from the Broad and Kellogg Foundations. The Broad Foundation is a private corporation that advocates for reshaping America’s schools with leadership from education, business, the military, and nonprofit organizations (churches) with the goal of transforming the public school system in America into a private, for profit enterprise that is not beholden to any government entity. The school district, parents, or state authority will have no input whatsoever in education much like Benton Harbor where the city leaders were stripped of all power.
Corporate takeover of schools is just the beginning in Michigan because every entity faces seizure and privatization if Snyder declares an emergency. If the governor decides prisons are in a fiscal emergency, he can appoint a corporation to take over administration and staffing duties and lay off every correction department employee. Police and fire departments in cities like Benton Harbor will be replaced by private firms because the manager has rescinded all prior arrangements; the list is inexhaustible. It is not a stretch to imagine Snyder declaring a state-wide emergency and appointing a few of his cronies in the corporate world to take over running the state.
The state of government in Michigan is approaching a dictatorship, and Republicans praise Snyder as a courageous visionary who is saving the state from ruin. Republican governors in Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio are looking for ways to follow suit and establish similar emergency situations in their respective states. Republicans in Congress are taking funding from programs for the poor and giving it to the oil industry and corporations, and Speaker of the House John Boehner is attempting to pass legislation to give vouchers for private religious schools in Washington D.C. as well as defunding regulatory agencies at the behest of corporations and conservative think tanks. Democracy in America is in a perilous state and will die without intervention from voters.
Do the voters in Michigan understand that the 2010 midterm elections were probably their last involvement in governing? Are they proud of the politicians they elected to destroy democracy? That is precisely what Republican voters have done, destroy democracy. Michigan Republicans who claim to value democracy and the Constitution elected people who have taken away their voice and installed corporations as the government. Hopefully, Michigan’s Republican voters are happy for what they have done and enjoy being ruled by cold, repressive corporate monsters. It is just shameful that their short-sightedness and conservative values are responsible for the end of democracy and that everyone gets to suffer with them.
Republicans are watching the results in Michigan with gleeful anticipation because it is their vision for all of America. However, most Americans are not Michigan voters and will not tolerate dictators or corporate rule. Republican legislators are learning that privatizing cherished programs to give tax cuts and breaks to corporations and the wealthy is very unpopular. They have misjudged Americans and the level of affection they have for democracy as well as the contempt they have for dictators. Hopefully the people of Michigan enjoy privatized schools, prisons, police and fire departments without any input in the decision-making process. America wishes Michigan luck with corporate rule, but if the people grow weary of serving dictators, we will gladly share democracy again. It has worked well for over 200 years.