It is curious that Republicans became the party of austerity economics on January 21, 2009 at the same time a new Democratic President began his first term in office. For eight years prior to Barack Obama’s inauguration, Republicans took America’s economy to the brink of collapse with two unfunded and unnecessary wars of aggression against Muslims, gave outrageous unfunded tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, cost millions of Americans their jobs, homes, and retirement savings, and spent like spoiled children with their daddy’s credit card. Indeed, the idea of fiscal responsibility and, to a greater extent, austerity became successful buzzwords for Republicans complaining loudly that the nation was suffering under crushing debt they only noticed the minute a Democrat occupied the White House.
That debt and deficit fear-mongering success led to the election of so-called fiscally responsible and austerity-minded governors in 2010 that promptly used every means at their disposal to enact Draconian spending cuts; not to reduce state debts and deficits, but to fund tax cuts for corporations and the rich. One of the means employed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to impose austerity on the state was appointing “emergency financial managers” to run cities like dictators with unchallengeable power.
Today there are numerous Michigan cities and school districts run by one “state-appointed” Koch acolyte under Michigan’s emergency manager law enacted by governor-turned-dictator Rick Snyder; all under cover of every economy’s death knell – austerity. Of course, it is austerity meant only for government and the population; not the rich or corporations. The idea of imposing harsh cost-saving measures is a nothing more than cover for a democracy-killing fascist coup by Koch Republican Governor Rick Snyder.
Some Americans may recall that Snyder’s dictatorial power-grab under the guise of Republican austerity does much more than abolish democracy by stripping residents of their local voting rights and voices; it gives Snyder’s appointed demi-gods unquestioned power to do any and everything that strikes their fancy including, but not limited to, eliminating a city’s charter, dismissing democratically-elected officials, shuttering schools, and ending services the emergency manager deems too costly such as delivering safe drinking water. It is, according to Snyder, all in the name of good old Republican “fiscal responsibility” and austerity politics; something Snyder traverses the nation to spread to all 50 states.
Snyder launched a national tour, “Making Government Accountable: The Michigan Story,” to ‘sell‘ democracy’s demise in Michigan to the rest of the country. His tour was funded by a “secret” nonprofit that is, naturally, secretly funded by a group of ‘undisclosed’ donors advocating for austerity and small government. As a clue to which undisclosed donors are paying Snyder to promote Michigan’s drive to abolish democracy, it is relatively well known that Snyder is a highly-regarded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) operative (the Kochs fund ALEC).
Snyder’s salesmanship and promotion of how best to hasten democracy’s demise and impose ugly austerity was rewarded when New Jersey’s corrupt Governor Chris Christie recently appointed Snyder’s bankruptcy lawyer and former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr to “legally advise” Atlantic City on its finances. It was a Christie move that the Detroit Free Press described “as a takeover” similar to Snyder’s coup d’état in the Motor City.
Bad things generally happen when corporate fascist take over government and eliminate democracy, and it is a fact of life many Michigan citizens have learned the hard way; by being poisoned. One city “neglected” to inform its residents for over a year that its water supply was laced with human waste, bacteria, toxins, and cancerous chemicals. Of course, no Republican-imposed abomination story is complete without noting that despite the consequences to residents, there was no media coverage of Flint Michigan’s filthy brown, chemical-laced, and toxin-laden drinking water.
A little over a year ago, Flint’s Snyder-appointed emergency manager imposed some Republican austerity and fiscal responsibility on Flint residents and ordered the city to stop buying water from the Detroit Water Department. Instead, the manager issued an order that Flint residents would drink, cook, and bathe in water drawn directly from the Flint River the Ford Motor Company used as a “a longtime dumping ground.”
The fiscally responsible move meant Flint realized a whopping budgetary savings of $12 million a year it could then contribute to help fund Snyder’s corporate tax cuts while Flint residents started getting very, very sick. Eventual tests on the austerity water source revealed there were high levels of E. coli and fecal bacteria in the water, as well as high levels of a very dangerous carcinogenic chemical cocktail, trihalomethanes; also known as THMs.
For several months the city concealed the presence of THMs because they are known to increase cancer rates, kidney failure, and birth defects. Local residents began to suspect that something ugly was in the “austerity” water when they began breaking out in mysterious rashes, experiencing severe diarrhea, and witnessing their eyelashes and hair falling out. When what was left of Flint’s neutered city council foolishly voted to “do all things necessary” to get Detroit’s safe drinking water back, Snyder’s emergency manager immediately shut them down and labeled their impertinence “incomprehensible.”
The poisoned water, and lack of redress from a Snyder-appointed emergency tyrant, has many city residents not only sick and losing their hair, they are frustrated and now many of them are slightly confused. After being told the idea of returning to a clean, safe water source was “incomprehensible” by Snyder’s emergency manager, two notices were sent out the same day, packaged in the same envelope, to further pollute the poisoned water issue.
One notice was printed in black-and-white and stated quite bluntly that, “Our water system recently violated a drinking water standard.” There was no information on how much or what toxins were in the water, what kind of bacteria was making residents sick, or the types of carcinogens the people had ingested over the previous year; likely because explaining the danger borne of austerity and fiscal responsibility was as incomprehensible as it would have been costly to print more than nine words in black ink on white paper. However, in the same envelope there was a “flashy colored” glossy notice with a celebratory message that said, “We are pleased to report that City of Flint water is safe and meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. You can be confident that the water provided to you today meets all safety standards.”
One recipient commented that, “I can only surmise that the point was to confuse us all.” No, the point was to silence residents’ complaints of severe diarrhea, hair loss, and mysterious rashes that a fancy-colored notice meant they could no longer attribute their sicknesses to the poisoned river water; water, by the way, that Flint residents are still drinking, cooking, and bathing in because if there is one thing a Snyder-appointed tyrant is not going to countenance is incomprehensible impertinence of resident’s demanding a clean and safe water source.
There are several other abominable consequences Michigan residents are suffering due to Republican austerity and fiscal responsibility, and although they are clear and present dangers to residents’ health and well-being, the death of democracy means they have no recourse or ability to make necessary changes. Michigan residents did, in fact, overwhelmingly vote to repeal Snyder’s emergency financial manager act, but within two months during a lame-duck session Snyder pushed a stronger act that was “referendum-proof” in yet another assault on democracy.
Since then, Snyder’s little hand-picked tyrants have unilaterally shut down entire school districts, closed down entire fire departments, outsourced and privatized police departments, and sold off public parks and city buildings. All in the name of Republican austerity and fiscal responsibility to fund tax cuts for the rich and hasten Koch-imposed privatization on Michigan. It is a portent of what the Koch brothers envision for America when they complete their fascist coup d’état that is much closer than Americans are ready to admit but know that without a robust and democratic intervention is in the offing.