On Friday, April 15, the government of Benton Harbor got the axe.

The New York Times has yet to mention it.


Corporate Coup d’état Coming Soon to a City Near You
by Rania Khalek

In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein demonstrates
how wealthy elites often use times of crisis and chaos to
impose unpopular policies that restructure economies and
political systems to further advance their interests. She
calls these orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the
wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment
of disasters as exciting market opportunities, “disaster

Disaster capitalism is on display around the country, as
legislators use the debt crisis afflicting their states as
an opportunity to hollow out the public sector. In
Michigan it’s being packaged as “emergency financial
management” by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who is looking
to exploit an economic crisis that has left his state with
a severe budget deficit. In March, Snyder signed a law
granting state-appointed emergency financial managers
(EFM) the ability to fire local elected officials, break
teachers’ and public workers’ contracts, seize and sell
assets, and eliminate services, entire cities or school
districts, all without any public input. He claims these
dictatorial restructuring powers will keep Michigan
communities out of bankruptcy.

Michigan currently has unelected EFM’s in charge of the
schools in Detroit, as well as the cities of Pontiac,
Ecorse, and Benton Harbor. In Benton Harbor, the city’s
elected mayor and city commissioners were stripped of all
power by unelected EFM, Joseph Harris. Harris issued an
order saying the city commissioners have no power beyond
calling meetings to order, approving minutes, and
adjourning meetings. This decimation of local democracy
is spreading. Robert Bobb, the EFM that has taken over
Detroit’s public school system, sent layoff notices to all
of the district’s 5,466 unionized employees. Bobb says he
will exercise his power as EFM to unilaterally modify the
district’s collective bargaining agreement with the
Federation of Teachers starting May 17, 2011.

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