In Hard Times, Democracy More Important Than Ever

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speaking at an event (Pool/Getty Images News)
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speaking at an event (Pool/Getty Images News)

In his Chicago Sun-Times column, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. assails Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for using Detroit's financial crisis to pursue a far-right agenda, including privatizing critical services and laying off public workers. What's needed instead is more democracy, he says.

In Michigan, Detroit and other cities have hit the wall. The Great Recession has devastated city finances. Everyone agrees tough steps are needed.

Snyder’s response is what Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein calls economic “shock doctrine.” Use the crisis to force-feed an unpopular far-right agenda: privatizing basic services; selling off public parks and assets for private gain; breaking labor contracts; laying off teachers, cops and other vital service providers.

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Meanwhile, the governor calls for cutting taxes for corporations, and his Republican colleagues in the House slash federal support for states and localities, intensifying the pressure.

Citizens oppose this, so democracy itself must be trashed — particularly in majority minority cities. In Benton Harbor and Pontiac, the governor has invoked Public Act 4 and appointed emergency managers with extraordinary powers. The emergency managers can break all city contracts; abolish all city offices; sell off the public’s assets; pass and revoke laws, all without consultation or approval of the citizens’ elected representatives.

In Detroit, Snyder has said, “Let’s have it so the city can keep running the city.” But his formulation of that doesn’t include the elected City Council members. Rather than invoking the economic martial law of Public Act 4, the governor has offered Detroit a “consent agreement.”

Read Jesse Jackson's entire column at the Chicago Sun-Times.

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