"States' rights" Republicans killing democracy, state by state


Major assaults on democracy are underway on the local level in dozens of states.

The irony, people in the labor movement and their allies note, is that the assaults are being mounted by newly-elected Republican governors and state legislators who campaigned on platforms supporting "states' rights" over the "encroachment of the feds" and calling for greater local autonomy and control.

One of the most dramatic reversals of long-standing democratic procedures is being pushed in Michigan where a new bill allows the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, to declare a "financial emergency" in a city or school district and install a czar with the power to fire local elected officials, cancel contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services and even dissolve entire cities and school districts with no public input.

Unions expect that the sharpest edge of this undemocratic sword will be reserved for the labor movement itself. According to Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the bill "empowers this czar with the governor's approval to force a municipality into bankruptcy, a power that will surely be used to extract further concessions from hard-working public sector workers."

While demonstrations against attacks on collective bargaining were getting major attention in Wisconsin and Indiana last week less attention was given to the 1,000-plus people who crowded into Michigan's Lansing Capitol building to protest the governor's draconian bill.

"I'm here to tell the governor that he has to stop this attack on working-class citizens. Removing the people that we put into office without any check or balance is completely undemocratic," said Ken Bower, a United Steelworker Local 2-21 member from Escanaba, Mich., who protested at the capitol while the state senate debated the anti-democratic measure.

Unions note that conservative governors in Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere all seek to place the burden of deficit reduction on state employees, students and workers. They also note that the efforts by the governors are accompanied by attacks on democratic procedures of all types.

They note that Michigan's governor, who has proposed ending Michigan's Earned Income Tax Credit, cutting a $600 per child tax credit, is behind what could be one of the biggest assaults on democracy in the states.

The governor would also cut funding for school districts by eight to ten percent and, at the same time, slash business taxes by 86 percent from an estimated $2.1 billion in 2011 to $292.7 million in 2013.

Snyder is not the only GOP governor having some real problems with what democracy looks like on the local level.

In Ohio, March 14, reporters were told they were not allowed to broadcast sound and images from the release that day of Republican Gov. John Kasich's budget plan.

Connie Werkamp, the governor's spokesperson, told journalists they could bring only pads and pens to the briefing. Reporters went crazy, lodging all kinds of protests that fell on deaf ears because later that night the governor held an "invitation-only" town hall meeting that was broadcast on government television.

Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan state AFL-CIO said the actions of the new governors border on "tyrannical."

Describing the governor's power grab in his state, Gaffney said, "It takes every decision in a city or school district and puts it in the hands of the governor's czar, from when the streets get plowed to who plows them and how much they are paid. In schools the czar decides on academics or if you have athletics. This is a takeover by the right wing and it's an assault on democracy like I've never seen."

The idea, labor and its allies note, is to first propose a budget that starves a city and creates a fiscal emergency and then to invoke that emergency to undo local elections or any other local democratic procedures that may be bothersome. "Is that not an assault on democracy?" Gaffney asked.

Photo: Wisconsin solidarity, March 5. John Bachtell/PW Flickr


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  • The rich create jobs? Show me, please - a shining example of the rich creating jobs... at least, in this decade.

    Are people that stupid to think that poor hungry people have never created a business? What, was every single business ever created in history created be a rich person?

    That's laughable. I'm sure nobody has ever heard the story of the successful person who started out as a delivery driver, a janitor, and a counter person who went on to manage then own a nationwide corporation.

    I'm still waiting on just one single rich person to create a job... still waiting...

    Posted by Unemployed Guy, 04/07/2011 12:42am (5 years ago)

  • Reminds me of the prescient comment made by number 43 wherein he commented that 'This would be a heck of a lot easier if this were a dictatorship, just so long as I'm the dictator.'

    Posted by Wesley, 03/16/2011 4:39pm (5 years ago)

  • You need to come right out and say it. What these governors are doing is fascism, no different from what swept across Europe in the '20's and '30's and what was rejected in the US with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933: It's the sacrificing of the population for the sake of predatory financial interests.

    Posted by Carl, 03/16/2011 1:20pm (5 years ago)


    Let's see - the rich create jobs. The welfare recipients create ----- what? more welfare recipients.

    Go ahead, tax the rich - soon the goose that laid the golden eggs will be dead and the deadbeats can run the country - but where are they going to get the money? They certainly can't create jobs, wealth, prosperity, or anything positive.

    Go for it Workers of the World

    Posted by sandmman, 03/16/2011 12:45pm (5 years ago)

  • For the non-Marxist readers...the US is not, was not, has not been and hopefully will never be a 'democracy.' Kudos to the GOP for beating back the 'democratic revolution.'

    The voters can replace their GOP representatives/governors in 2012 just like they recently replaced the Democrats. That's how we roll in a representative Republic.

    Posted by Gary, 03/15/2011 6:50pm (5 years ago)

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