Thursday, March 10, 2011

All Disquiet on the Midwestern Front: Michigan Makes Headlines For Being The Worst

We all know the tale of the (Metro-)Detroiter who, driven by desperation, prowls the city in search of buildings rich in metals, to gut, strip, and sell them to get by. What's left after this mining is a facade that does little more than signal a remote golden age and threaten collapse.

Yesterday, the Michigan Senate birthed the legislative equivalent through the passage of the controversial Emergency Manager Bill.

There is, of course, one key difference between the metal stripper and the financial manager: Unlike the former, the operation of the latter delivers the vital organs of atrophied municipalities to well-fed corporations.

Rachel Maddow dedicated a few minutes to the discussion of the bill. The usually cool Maddow appeared seething. If this wasn't alarming, her discussion with Canadian activist and author Naomi Klein did the job.

As Maddow notes, the bill stipulates that, in the case of a declared financial emergency, managers appointed by the governor have the power to suspend collective bargaining rights, dismiss the elected government, and sell off public assets to private business, etc. etc. (It's like Parks and Recreation, but it will be this guy that fucks you and leaves not Rob Lowe. )

Whether or not you generally accept the Maddow/Klein take on the events that have precipitated since September of 2008 (and if you don't, you should), it is hard to overlook the severity of the measures advanced to 'get Michigan back on track,' as they say.

One might point out that the communities listed for the deployment of financial managers are those that are already in disrepair (or worse), and continue by reminding us the Michigan economy is really bad. (We get it. We don't have jobs. And if we do, they are barely enough.)

Be that as it may, it is difficult to see how further job cuts, the erosion of hard fought workers' rights, and privatization of public assets will resuscitate this patient.

But, if you live in a community like Ann Arbor (or Birmingham or West Bloomfield or Plymouth or Grosse Pointe) ... sleep easy. The bill conveniently exploits the fault lines of Michigan's troubled and persistent regionalism, allowing the 'chosen people' to continue in the established practice of scapegoating the scapegoats.


  1. posted on my FB. love your last because I live in one of those "fault lines" of the provinces that will be worst hit by all of this 15th century Lordship nonsensicalness.

  2. Don't be too quick to join the divide and conquer party. I remember even 7-8 years ago, Mayor Hieftje saying that Michigan's municipal finance structure had Ann Arbor "headed towards the same cliff as every other city in the state - even if we're at the end of the line." Birmingham and the Pointes have had to make budget cuts and raise taxes in the past few years, and aren't done yet. Or look at Troy - theoretically a shining mecca of family values & great schools, but unable to keep a public library open.

    Granted, the issues aren't as acute there as in Flint or Highland Park or DPS - but those communities have to be on the same side to find a fix.