Thursday, April 21, 2011

Corporate Coup d'etat Coming Soon to a City Near You

Corporate Coup d'etat Coming Soon to a City Near You


by Rania Khalek

April 20, 2011 by


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

Michigan it's being packaged as "emergency financial

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 Michigan

communities out of bankruptcy.


Michigan currently has unelected EFM's in charge of the

schools in Detroit, as well as the cities of Pontiac,

Ecorse, and Benton Harbor.  In Benton Harbor, the city's

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.  Michigan has joined with the

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

Lansing, Michigan this week on topics including "Dealing

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.  Michigan has become a laboratory

for CEO Governor Rick Snyder to impose disaster capitalism

onto his state.  If we allow what is taking place in

Michigan to continue unabated, it won't be long before

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.




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