Published in the Oct. 30, 2012, Tomahawk Leader
We have heard a lot about downsizing government and creating jobs lately, but no one explains just how that works. Perhaps we should look around and see what examples might exit. Take the state of Michigan for instance.
In 2010, soon-to-be Gov. Rick Snyder ran campaign ads that promised to eliminate business tax, cut taxes on “job creators” by $1.5 billion, slash needless regulations and help small business. Those ads did not disclose that he was a former CEO and creator of two venture capital operations and executive director of a computer corporation that shipped US jobs overseas until the entire business itself landed up in Taiwanese ownership. Sounds vaguely familiar, right?
So what happened to the state of Michigan under Snyder rule? It only took two weeks for both Republican majority legislative branches to pass and Snyder to sign into law the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act (LGSDFA). This new law allows Snyder to take control of any local government body that the Gov determines to be in fiscal distress, suspend the democratic process of the public vote, impose financial martial law and appoint an “emergency financial manager”.
All of this strangely resembles a proposal put forth by the Koch-funded Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, which suggested that a financial manager should replace and take on the powers of the governing body, have sole discretion to alter the governing charter, be immune from lawsuits, and have the power to alter and abolish union contracts.
What has this meant to Michigan cities?
Pontiac not only lost the entire manufacturing base of its name sake automobile, but the new emergency manager, Louis Schimmel, of Mackinac Center fame, put up for sale the city’s publicly owned police and fire stations, library, water pumping stations, two cemeteries, city hall and a golf course. Good luck if you own an “empty” structure in the city of Pontiac, because the fire department probably will not respond following the city of Detroit’s model.
Benton Harbor, home of Whirlpool Corporation executives and their tax-subsidized new corporate headquarters, saw the loss of half its population base as Whirlpool outsourced its US manufacturing jobs overseas. Benton Harbor is now the poorest city in Michigan in spite of the fact that the city’s public lakeshore park was privatized into Harbor Shores, a $500 million Whirlpool-backed golf course. Joe Harris is the financial manager personally responsible for taking the people out of that process, and who is now looking to privatize the city’s water system. Good luck ratepayers.
Just guess what has happened to public sector unionized workers and schools in Michigan.
This is a cautionary tale to the rest of us because we are facing national and local elections with the very same empty promises and rhetoric of downsizing government and regulations, and creating jobs all the while cutting taxes. Don’t fall for it. Local or national, check out a candidate’s history and forget the paid advertisements.
Diana C. Smith