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  True Twit, Part 4: Rachel’s Rubber Room over Michigan

Posted on March 19 2011 12:00 pm
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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Editor’s Note: This popular post was first published on March 11 here.

In a hysterical rant worthy of the guy carrying “The End is Near” sign, Rachel Maddow screamed the sky was falling in Michigan, making new Governor Rick “the Nerd” Snyder into a combination of Mussolini and Stalin.

It’s like something out of a left-wing dystopia tale! she wailed.  Yes, Rachel, that’s exactly what it is.  And just as fictional.

The True Twit is just hysterical because she reads union press releases and takes them seriously.  In Michigan, the alarm du jour is the slight strengthening of the Emergency Financial Manager law for cities and school districts that are financially going under.

Here’s how powerless the Emergency Financial Managers are now:  In Detroit, Robert Bobb, (yes, his name is Bob Bobb) has done brilliant work trying to rescue the Detroit Public Schools, and pretty much all any human being could be expected to do.  However, even he could not do anything about the so-called “Rubber Rooms.”

Rubber Rooms are where teachers are sent who are so bad they have been removed from Detroit class rooms (and that takes something!)  They get paid $50,000 a year, or so, to basically be in detention.  They do nothing for the system, though there was some effort to use them as reading instructors…

Bob Bobb with all of his “powers” cannot dismiss these teachers, which cost the bankrupt school system up to $60 MILLION per year!

Remember the controversy over the GM “Jobs Bank” where employees who were basically laid off came in every day and played cards and read the newspaper for full pay?  At least those people had done nothing to put themselves there.  This would be like GM having a jobs bank for only people who have been caught stealing from the company or who showed up drunk.

But one of the biggest reasons that Michigan is financially strapped has to do with how far Thomas Jefferson could ride a horse in one day…

Below is the complete text of the Rachel’s Rubber Room-worthy Rant.  My answers are in bold:

MADDOW: But it‘s actually in Michigan where this is maybe the most stark and the most amazing.  In Michigan, the new Republican governor is a man named Rick Snyder.  Rick Snyder does not get a lot of national attention, but boy, howdy, he ought to.  (Michigan conservatives could only dream Rachel was right about that.)

What Governor Snyder is doing, I think, tells you in particular how clueless the Beltway press has been about what is actually happening in the states in Republican politics.  If you listen to the Beltway press, even those who are willing to be critical of the Republicans, they say things like—well, real fiscal conservatives would consider raising taxes as well as cutting spending to address their state‘s budget shortfalls.  That is actually happening in some places.  Look what they are trying to do in Michigan.

Rick Snyder has proposed an actual tax increase.  Michigan has a budget problem.  So, he‘s going to do the responsible thing, right?  He‘s going to raise taxes.

He is going to raise taxes on seniors and on poor people — $1.7 billion in tax hikes for Michigan seniors and Michigan‘s poor people, and for people who want to make tax deductible donation to public universities.  (So NOW Rachel admits that taking away a tax deduction is a tax increase?  Make a note of that!)

Sorry, you know, Michigan has a budget problem.  We‘re going to have to raise a whole lot of money from you.  Poor people, old people, people supporting public schooling, you have to take the hit because the state needs to save that money.  (The only tax Snyder is proposing is Michigan’s exemption of all pensions from taxes, something only 6 other states do.  While I’m not wild about this, since the first $40,o00 of pensions are still exempt, calling this a tax on “the poor” is a wild stretch.  But that’s the template, teachers are “underpaid” and old people are “poor.”

Is the state saving that money?  No, the state is not.  Governor Snyder is taking all of that money that the state will gain and he is not using it to close the budget gap.  He is giving it away in the form of $1.8 billion in corporate tax cuts.  He is taking in $1.7 billion in higher taxes from poor people an old people and giving it away, $1.8 billion to businesses.  Net short term effect on the state‘s budget?  Zero or worse.

(Michigan had a SPECIAL TAX TO DO BUSINESS HERE called the Michigan Business Tax.  It wasn’t even profits based, you could trigger it by grosses and pay it even if you lost money.  I’m not kidding—and it was an improvement on our old business tax!  It made Michigan the highest tax place to start a business in the Great Lakes Region.  Since the “surcharge” that was placed on it by the last Democrat Governor, Jennifer Granholm, unemployment in Michigan has gone up at a far faster rate than its neighbors.  Eliminating that and replacing it with a flat income tax on business — still a stupid, anti-growth tax, but a definite improvement — is what Rachel calls a “giveaway” to the rich.)

It is not about the budget.  It is really not.  It is not about the budget in Wisconsin, it is not about the budget in Florida, it is not about the budget in Ohio, it is not about the budget in Michigan.

But what Michiganders know and what Michiganders have been trying to get the rest of the country to pay attention to is that what these Republicans are doing in the states is not just not about the budget.  It‘s about something way worse than that.

Stay with me for a moment here.  There is more to this.

(Now Rachel is just writing a leftist novel from the future… sorry, getting ahead of myself.)





MADDOW:  Why are these people in Michigan so loud?  Why are these people in Michigan so mad?

It‘s not just because they haven‘t won yet, like the protesters in Wisconsin have,(oops!) it‘s because Michigan Republicans are telling them that they are about to lose their right to elect local government.  The governor is going to take care of that from now on.  See?  The governor knows best.  This whole democracy thing turns out, it‘s very inefficient.  And haven‘t you heard?  There‘s a crisis.  Big government conservativism gets really, really, really astonishingly big—that‘s next.


MADDOW:  The Michigan house has already passed and the Michigan Senate is about to pass a bill that sounds like it is out of a dystopian, leftist novel from the future.  If you think that Republican governors across the country are using fiscal crisis as a pretext to do stuff they otherwise want to do, this is something I don‘t think I ever would have believed Republicans even wanted to do.  But this is what they are proposing.  It hasn‘t really gotten much national attention.

(Probably because… it’s not true.)

But please, just check this out.  Governor Rick Snyder‘s budget in Michigan is expected to cut aid to cities and towns so much that a lot of cities and towns in Michigan are expected to be in dire financial straights.

(Yes, Michigan is going to stop collecting money from communities and then sending it back to them after Lansing taking a cut—horrors!  Hey, Rache, Lansing can’t print money!  Only Obama can do that.)

Right now, Governor Snyder is pushing a bill that would give himself, Governor Snyder, and his administration, the power to declare any town or school district to be in a financial emergency.

(No, they are adding a few minor provisions to the law that has existed since 1990, and has been most used by Rachel and Obama’s favorite governor, Jennifer Graholm.)

If a town was declared by the governor and his administration to be in a financial emergency, they would get to put somebody in charge of that town, and they want to give that emergency manager they just put in charge of the town the power to, quote, “reject, modify, or terminate” any contract the town may have entered into, including any collective bargaining agreements.

(After about 12 conditions are met, including inability to make payroll, unfunded pensions, inability to pay vendors, little things like that… known out here in the real world as—Bankruptcy!)

So, this emergency person who gets put in charge of a town deemed to be in financial crisis by the governor‘s administration, this emergency person gets to strip the town of union rights, unilaterally, by their own personal authority.  But this emergency person also gets the power under this bill to suspend or dismiss elected officials.  Think about that for a second.  It doesn‘t matter who you voted for in Michigan, it doesn‘t matter who you elected, your elected local government can be dismissed at will.

(This is where the dystopian fantasy comes in.  Local officials are not dismissed.  They are actually consulted in the selection of the EMF, and in some cases, they request it—because THEY are hamstrung by union contracts negotiated by their predecessors who bought union peace and passed the problem down to them!  Usually what happens is the city council is still around, they just have severely limited budget authority, and may not get paid until after the city is back on its feet.)

The emergency person sent in by the Rick Snyder administration could recommend (what?  They can “recommend?”  How Big Brother!) that a school district be absorbed into another school district.  That emergency person is also granted power specifically to disincorporate or dissolve entire city governments.  (Uh, no.  They can’t.  In order for any services in Michigan to be consolidated, both populations have to vote for it.  Both.)

What year was your town founded?  Does it say so like on the town border as you drive into town?  Does it say what year your town was founded?  What did your town‘s founding fathers and mothers have to go through in order to incorporate your town?

(Michigan’s government is set up so that there is a local government within a HORSE RIDE round trip within everyone’s home.  More on that, later.)

Republicans in Michigan want to be able to unilaterally abolish your town and disincorporate it, regardless of what you as a resident think about it.  You don‘t have the right to express an opinion about it through your locally elected officials who represent you, because the Republicans in Michigan say they reserve the right to dismiss your measly elected officials and to do what they want instead because they know best.

The version of this bill that passed Republican-controlled Michigan house said it was fine for this emergency power to declare a fiscal emergency invoking all of these extreme powers.  It was fine for that power to be held by a corporation.

So swaths of Michigan could, at the governor‘s disposal, be handed over to the discretion of a company.  You still want your town to exist?  Take it up with the board of directors of this corporation that will be overseeing your future now.  Or rather don‘t take it up with them.  Frankly, they are not interested. ( The last three paragraphs are so demented and far from the truth, they aren’t worth fisking.  They are just made up.)

Instead of thinking of Michigan as the Upper and Lower Peninsula, let‘s think about Amway-stan, right?  The area between Pontiac and Flint could be a nice Dow Chemical-ville, maybe.  (Picking names off a map doesn’t show you know anything, Rachel, you have your company locations all wrong, Oxford girl.)

The power to overrule and suspend elected government justified by a financial emergency.  Oh, and how do you know when you‘re in a financial emergency?  Because the governor tells you you‘re in a financial emergency.  Or a company he hires to do so does that instead. (Or you can’t pay your employees, your retirees, or your vendors…)

The Senate version of the bill in Michigan says it has to be humans declaring the fiscal emergency.  The house bill says a firm can do that just as well.  (Okay, Rache, I know you are anti-business, but aren’t you supposed to be against de-humanizing people?”  Most Michigan firms I know of are run by humans… but since this is part of your fantasy, this is only for argument’s sake.)

This is about a lot of things.  This is not about a budget.  This is using or fabricating crisis to push for an agenda you‘d never be able to sell under normal circumstances.

And so, you have to convince everyone that these are not normal circumstances.  These are desperate circumstances.  And your desperate measures are therefore somehow required.

Okay, the real fantasy here is that a state in which Democrats over the last 10 years have spent every dime that has come in—and assumed that property taxes would rise forever—has had about a 40% drop in property tax revenue since the market crash… but everything is really okay.

We can pay assessors, affirmative action supervisors, lottery officials, and environmental agency regulators (yes, there ARE other state employees besides teachers, cops and nurses) whatever their union wants.  This is all just a big Republican plot to… what, again?

But the real problem in Michigan is not just governments who gave unsustainable benefits to public employees, it’s that we have OVERLAPPING governments making those promises they can’t keep based on property taxes that may never be collected at projected rates again.

Michigan is part of the North West Ordinance.  We are required to have a “township” established for every 6 mile by 6 mile square.  No matter how few people live there.  Most states have cities and counties, and everything outside the city is covered by county services, the sheriff, etc.

This was one of the things established by the “founding fathers” that Rachel reveres selectively. Thomas Jefferson’s ideal of government was that a citizen should be within a day’s round trip by HORSE to his local government.

So now in Michigan, we are required by our constitution to have a self sustaining government, police, fire, supervisor, clerk, treasurer and the whole bureaucracy for every 6 by 6 mile square.

The birthplace of Henry Ford is still governed by a round trip by horse rule.

…and the horse you rode in on, Rachel.

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