With the bombshell news yesterday that two former Flint Emergency Managers are being charged with felonies in their connection to the ongoing tragedy known as the Flint water crisis, the calls to repeal Michigan’s anti-democratic “financial martial law” are rising again from around the state. The corporatists that see Emergency Management as a key to accomplishing their dual goals of destroying public employee unions and privatizing as many government services as possible are beginning to freak at the thought that this valuable tool may finally be consigned to the rubbish bin of shameful history.
Top on the list of those defending this disgusting law and public policy is the corporate front group Mackinac Center for Public Policy. This group, heavily funded by millionaires and billionaires like David and Charles Koch and the Michigan-based DeVos family, has long promoted Emergency Management going back as far as 2005. In fact, the first Emergency Manager appointed by Rick Snyder – Louis Schimmel – was a Mackinac Center adjunct scholar. In another fact, the Mackinac Center helped craft the legislation that became Public Act 4, Michigan’s first Emergency Manager law.
Yesterday, two Mackinac Center staffers stepped up to say just exactly what they think of Emergency Management and the people living under Emergency Managers:
James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said Schuette’s investigation shows “a failure of government at all levels” and need for transparency, but it does not negate the need for the emergency manager law.
“We’ve been very supportive of emergency manager’s efforts in solvency, the state’s way of enforcing its own fiscal rules for governments,” he said, of a debate over the law since 2011.
John Mozena, vice president for marketing and communications for the Mackinac Center, likened the law to a form of “governmental chemotherapy” that can be painful and messy, but “sometimes it’s what you’ve got to do to solve the problem.”
I’ve heard the elected officials in municipalities with Emergency Managers called inept, corrupt, and other disparaging terms. But this is the first time I have heard someone compare the people living under a state-appointed overseer to cancer. The fact that they feel comfortable doing so speaks volumes about how they feel about people who are struggling from the implosion of manufacturing in our urban areas in Michigan.
Lonnie Scott, Executive Director of Progress Michigan released this pointed statement about Mozena’s offensive comment:
Twelve people have died. Thousands have been irreversibly poisoned, including children. What will it take for the Mackinac Center to finally admit that the anti-democratic legislation they helped to write is indefensible? The criminal charges filed today against Flint emergency managers show that the EM laws paved the way for the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Instead of comparing Flint residents to a cancer that must be excised through the ‘chemotherapy’ of ruthless austerity measures, the Mackinac Center should publicly apologize for the human toll of the laws they promote and join us in calling for their repeal.
In an astonishing turn of events, Richard McLellan, the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Mackinac Center, is now having second thoughts about Emergency Managers. He wrote this on his Facebook page yesterday:
I regret to say that I may agree with Progress Michigan that the emergency manager law “needs to be relocated to the scrap heap of history or, in the very least, significantly altered until that day comes.” The emergency manager law was a thoughtful attempt to deal with financial irresponsibility of local officials and address restructuring financial systems of municipalities and school systems. In retrospect, the singular focus on finances was a mistake and the cause of many unintended consequences. You can’t put a law in jail, so now we see this effort prosecute public officials for misconduct when clearly they had no benefit to gain. I hope they get a fair hearing in courts, but given the political need to punish someone, that may not be possible.
Sounds like Mr. McLellan needs to have a chat with James Hohman and John Mozena.
It’s worth noting the contribution of the DeVos family to the anti-democratic debacle of Emergency Management. Not only do the DeVoses contribute large amounts of money to the Mackinac Center which played a key role in the creation of our Emergency Manager law (read more about that in this Mother Jones piece), the DeVos family are also heavy contributors to Republicans in the state legislature and to the Michigan Republican Party in an effort to get them to do their bidding. As I have pointed out before, they see legislators as puppies to be trained to do what their owners want them to do. And it’s not just me saying this. The Mackinac Center itself says it:
Almost everyone loves puppies, at least until they start making messes on the carpet. With every puppy comes the responsibility of training it to become “man’s best friend.” The same can be said about legislators. While they are, of course, not dogs, they do need to be trained in order to be turned in to a voter’s best friend. While most go to Lansing or Washington to do the right thing, many will end up making messes that result in less liberty.
Training legislators, as with training puppies, must be done with care and common sense. An external system of rewards and punishments is used to guide the puppy toward doing the right thing.
One way they do this is through their donations. And, more often then not, it’s through withheld donations that don’t come until AFTER the legislators vote according to the wishes of the DeVos family.
Between the election in 2010 when Republicans took office and mid-April of 2011, various members of the DeVos family gave $80,000 dollars to Michigan Republicans:
Thanks to Sean Tobin at Progress Michigan for the research behind these numbers.
Note that all but one of these massive donations came in mid-April of 2011, just one month after Public Act 4 was signed into law. The other one came one day after Election Day in 2010. That’s the puppy treat delivered for being a “good dog”.
As you might imagine, nobody is more happy that president-elect Donald Trump has chosen Betsy DeVos as his pick for Secretary of Education than the Mackinac Center:
President-Elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday he intends to nominate Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education. DeVos has long championed policies that empower parents to make the best educational choices for their children, both here in Michigan and around the nation.
Mackinac Center for Public Policy analysts are excited to see how she uses her new role to advocate for quality educational options for all children. Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman issued the following statement about her upcoming nomination:
“I’ve known Betsy DeVos for two decades. She’s focused, persevering, unwilling to let the perfect impede the good within reach, generous above and beyond what anyone might reasonably expect, and she’s super-smart on policy. She won’t be entranced by rarified Beltway air in DC. She’s a hopeful choice the whole nation can be proud of.”
And, as I wrote about in a now-viral post yesterday, Betsy DeVos herself is profiting from the Flint water crisis.
One final thing while we’re on the topic of Betsy DeVos. Yesterday, the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), a group she created and heavily finances, tried to characterize any negative reporting about Ms. DeVos and her anti-public schools agenda as “fake news” with this tweet:
@tapthomparker Got it!! Probably why we NEVER retreat fake news from @Eclectablog, @DianeRavitch, @MEAOnline and other unsavory sites.
— GLEP (@GLEP_MI) December 21, 2016
With no apparent sense of irony, this tweet came shortly after they retweeted an article by Breitbart.com.
Also: “Retreat”, lol.
UPDATE: GLEP deleted their tweet. Here’s a screenshot: