Corporate Coup d'etat Coming Soon to a City Near You
by Rania Khalek
April 20, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein demonstrates
how wealthy elites often use times of crisis and chaos to
impose unpopular policies that restructure economies and
political systems to further advance their interests. She
calls these orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the
wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment
of disasters as exciting market opportunities, "disaster
Disaster capitalism is on display around the country, as
legislators use the debt crisis afflicting their states as
an opportunity to hollow out the public sector. In
management" by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who is looking
to exploit an economic crisis that has left his state with
a severe budget deficit. In March, Snyder signed a law
granting state-appointed emergency financial managers
(EFM) the ability to fire local elected officials, break
teachers' and public workers' contracts, seize and sell
assets, and eliminate services, entire cities or school
districts, all without any public input. He claims these
dictatorial restructuring powers will keep
communities out of bankruptcy.
elected mayor and city commissioners were stripped of all
power by unelected EFM, Joseph Harris. Harris issued an
order saying the city commissioners have no power beyond
calling meetings to order, approving minutes, and
adjourning meetings. This decimation of local democracy
is spreading. Robert Bobb, the EFM that has taken over
Detroit's public school system, sent layoff notices to all
of the district's 5,466 unionized employees. Bobb says he
will exercise his power as EFM to unilaterally modify the
district's collective bargaining agreement with the
Federation of Teachers starting May 17, 2011.
ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss said the law
raises concern about separation of powers, its impact on
minority communities, collective-bargaining rights and
privatization of services. She is absolutely correct.
Faced with a deficit, emboldened EFMs can sell off public
property to developers, close public schools and authorize
charter schools, and void union contracts with literally
no recourse for local, tax-paying residents or their
elected officials to stop it.
And, it gets worse.
Turnaround Management Association (TMA) to develop a
training program for prospective emergency managers.
According to their website, TMA members are a
professional community of turnaround and corporate renewal
professionals who share a common interest in strengthening
the economy through the restoration of corporate value.
Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon, while speaking about the
new program during a seminar on municipal distress, said
that mayors and school superintendents are essentially
running big businesses that, in many cases, are more
complicated than private companies. It's no surprise
then, that Wall Street investors are thrilled about the
potential impacts of the EFM law.
An estimated 400 accountants, lawyers, school employees,
and city workers began classes offered by the program in
with the Unionized Workforce," navigating municipal
bankruptcy and negotiating contracts for sewer, water and
other utilities. "Dealing with the Unionized Workforce"
is code for destroying unions and has nothing to do with
balancing the budget. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) in an
appearance before the House Oversight Committee, under
questioning from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), admitted a
key provision in his state budget proposal to curb union
rights had no fiscal benefit, putting to rest the notion
that union-busting governors like Rick Snyder have any
intention of actually solving their state's economic woes.
As for "negotiating contracts for sewer, water, and other
utilities", this is code for privatize, privatize, privatize!
This so-called financial emergency is really a democracy
emergency. Local governments are NOT corporations, nor
should they resemble them. The true purpose of emergency
financial management is the conversion of a democratically
elected government into a hierarchal business entity
through economic "shock therapy", which would be
impossible if workers, elected representatives, and
residents had any say.
for CEO Governor Rick Snyder to impose disaster capitalism
onto his state. If we allow what is taking place in
disaster capitalism finds its way to a city, town, or
school district near you.
Rania Khalek is a young, progressive activist with a
passionate dedication to social justice.