Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The semi-satirical political novel by Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here published in 1935, describes the rise of a populist politician who calls his movement "patriotic" and creates his own militia (the Minute Men or "MM") and takes unconstitutional power after winning election - paralleling what Hitler was doing in Germany at the time of writing. For those of you who have not read the book (shame on you) here is a brief plot introduction:
[The] plot centers around newspaperman Doremus Jessup's belated realization of what is happening, and his subsequent struggle against the fascist regime of President Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip.
Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, a charismatic and power-hungry politician, is elected President of the United States on a populist platform, promising to restore the country to prosperity and greatness, and promising each citizen $5,000 a year. Once in power, however, he becomes a dictator: He outlaws dissent, puts his political enemies in concentration camps, and creates a paramilitary force called the Minute Men who terrorize the citizens. One of his first acts as President is to make changes to the Constitution which give him sole power over the country, rendering Congress obsolete. This is met by protest from the Congress as well as outraged citizens, but Windrip declares a state of martial law and, with the help of his Minute Men, throws the protesters in jail. As Windrip dismantles democracy, most Americans either support him and his Corpo Regime wholeheartedly or reassure themselves that fascism "can't happen" in America (hence the book's title).
This semi-satirical premise is now playing out in real-life in the state of Michigan. I previously told you about the "financial martial law" bill in Michigan that allows the new Tea-Publican governor of Michigan to declare a financial emergency and dissolve cities and towns and their duly elected city and town councils and place them under state receivership and the control of an "emergency financial manager" appointed by the governor – which can be a corporation. Coup D'etat in Michigan: The 'Financial Martial Law' Bill on Way to Governor.
This law has since been put to use already by Michigan's Tea-Publican governor, Rick Snyder. The Emergency Financial Manager of the city of Benton Harbor, MI has issued an order stripping all city boards and commissions of all their authority to take any action. Benton Harbor emergency manager strips power from all elected officials | Michigan Messenger:
The order, signed [last] Thursday, limits the actions available to such bodies to calling a meeting to order, approving the minutes of meetings and adjourning a meeting. The bodies are prohibited under the act from taking any other action without the express authority of the Emergency Financial Manager, Joseph Harris.
Actions such as Harris’ are explicitly allowed under a newly approved law which granted sweeping new powers to emergency financial managers. That legislation had drawn large protests, including attempts by some protesters to take over the state capitol building. The sit-in resulted in numerous arrests.
Harris’ move comes as Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager Robert Bobb announced that he would use powers granted to him under the act to change union contracts.
Benton Harbor is the world heaquarters of Whirlpool Corporation which has long since ceased manufacturing operations in Benton Harbor and elsewhere in the U.S. Benton Harbor is, in fact, in financial distress due to the deindustrialization wrought by free-trade policies and corporate globalism. It is one of hundreds of small towns in the American "rust belt" in decline and decay due to deindustialization.
But there is more to this story. Benton Harbor still has one thing that someone else wants – valuable beach front property along Lake Michigan. Eclectablog explains:
Al Pscholka, … in addition to being the state Representative from the area that includes Benton Harbor, is a former aide to Congressman Fred Upton [an heir to the Whirlpool fortune], a man who has deep ties into shoreline development efforts all along Lake Michigan including in Benton Harbor.
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Pscholka himself was the president of the Board of Directors of the Cornerstone Alliance in 2008, the group that developed the Harbor Shores golf course and luxury residential development that snagged some of Benton Harbor's public park for its own use. This is a fact he conveniently left off his campaign site's About page when he ran for Congressman.
Pscholka is also the author of the Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) legislation signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder and that has allowed the Benton Harbor government to be taken over the "The Czar of Benton Harbor," Joseph Harris. The first use of the new EFM law to take over a city's government was right in Benton Harbor, the area that Rep. Pscholka represents and where he has deep financial interests. And the first thing Harris did after dismissing the City Council was to rejigger the Planning Commission and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, the two groups who make crucial decisions regarding shoreline development in Benton Harbor. Harris replaced some of their members with new members selected by him.
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All evidence points to the fact that he is part of a larger group of developers and legislators that are using, and in some cases changing, the laws of Michigan to benefit their own financial self-interest while paying lip-service to doing it "for the citizens." In the case of Harbor Shores, the citizens of Benton Harbor benefit very little while the developers themselves cash in.
The only place I have seen this story about the tyrannical use of the "financial martial law" in Michigan reported has been on the Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow has done two segments, to date. Here is the segment from Monday, April 18th – Rachel Maddow show – msnbc.com:
[T]he dark horse in any tournament to determine the most overreaching recently-elected Republican governor in 2011 has to be Michigan‘s Rick Snyder. Governor Snyder, not just union-stripping, not just trying to tax old people and poor people in order to give that money away to corporations—Rick Snyder signed the new law that lets his administration eliminate your voting rights at the local level. If you elected a mayor, a town council, any local officials in your town, the state under Governor Snyder will now decide if that election counts. They will decide if your town is allowed to keep your local election results or if they will overrule them and impose their own.
It‘s being called “financial martial law,” this new powers that Rick Snyder just took for himself. Republicans passed the bill in March, Snyder signed it, and they just used it. They just imposed it for the first time.
Guess where they‘re using it. Guess what they‘re using it to do…
Here is the second segment from Tuesday, April 19 -Rachel Maddow show – msnbc.com:
We begin tonight with a story that is not happening in Washington, D.C., so most of the beltway press will not tell you that it‘s happening at all. But it is the story that I think is the single-most telling thing in American politics right now about the difference between the two parties, about the choice in basic philosophy that we‘ve got to make about how we shall be governed as Americans…
Now Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is following the lead of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Forbes reports that Governor Scott Walker reportedly planning financial martial law in Wisconsin:
Following the lead of Michigan GOP Governor Rick Snyder, Walker is said to be preparing a plan that would allow him to force local governments to submit to a financial stress test with an eye towards permitting the governor to take over municipalities that fail to meet with Walker’s approval.
According to the reports, should a locality’s financial position come up short, the Walker legislation would empower the governor to insert a financial manager of his choosing into local government with the ability to cancel union contracts, push aside duly elected local government officials and school board members and take control of Wisconsin cities and towns whenever he sees fit to do so.
Such a law would additionally give Walker unchallenged power to end municipal services of which he disapproves, including safety net assistance to those in need.
This "model law" has the fingerprints of billionaire-funded corporate think tanks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) all over it. How long do you think it will be before this tyrannical "financial martial law" bill is introduced by one of our ALEC-loving Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature?
One of the unspoken purposes of the Tea-Publican state budget in shifting costs from the state to county and municipal governments, fund sweeps and reduction of state revenue sharing to county and municipal governments was to create the necessary financial crisis predicate for county and municipal governments to enable the introduction of this radical "financial martial law" bill in Arizona. Many people will claim it is necessary, including the usual suspects in our conservative media. It is Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" in practice (another book you should have read).
Rachel Maddow is correct: "The single-most telling thing in American politics right now [is] the difference between the two parties, about the choice in basic philosophy that we‘ve got to make about how we shall be governed as Americans." Are we going to continue to be a democratically elected republican form of government governed by a Constitution? Or are we going to descend into the tyranny of far-right authoritarianism and corporatocracy? It can happen here. It's happening now right before your eyes. It's time for you to choose — what's it going to be?