The United States of What’s Going On Here?

Since the technology fast of Sunday, I’ve been trying to catch up on news for the last couple of days. Though honestly, I think it’s kind of sad that I feel so out of touch when I haven’t caught some of the news for a day…So aside from the scores of stories on the still unfolding disaster in Japan, there are still stories trickling out of Wisconsin, where the power mad GOP has been making it’s case for overreaching budget cutting measures.

I blogged about my thoughts on the stupid end-around they pulled on due process, using a procedural move to vote on and pass the virtually union-busting provision of the budget bill the governor there is trying to pass. But then I’ve seen more stories that are almost just as disturbing.

The Democratic senators who were AWOL were declared in contempt of the senate, and while they have returned, the GOP majority leader of the senate sent out a message to his caucus reminding them that the Democrats are still in contempt, and therefore none of their votes will count in committees or on the floor of the senate. So wait, is this punishment for them running away, or just the GOP picking up their ball and moving the game because they’re angry at how 14 people made them look like goons? Instead of taking the high ground here, which certainly would have gone a long way to trying to smooth things over with both the Democrats and the state, they’ve decided to effectively try putting the Democrats in the legislative equivalent of a time out, saying that they can participate, debate, introduce amendments and vote, but in the end, nothing will actually count. Classy move, guys.

Ah, but then a story came out late this evening saying that the sanctions have been lifted, on the condition that the Democrats have promised to participate in future senate and committee sessions.

In the meantime, the recall process has begun, with several reports that petitions to recall the governor and up to 8 Republican senators have already gathered half the needed signatures required to force a recall vote. But in an odd little story today, it turns out that one of those eight senators will have his own wife signing his recall petition. Okay, full disclosure: it’s his estranged wife, as his office claims they haven’t lived together for a year, and she claims that he’s been having an affair with a staffer. But all of that raises another interesting question: why does it seem that the self-proclaimed party of the moral high-ground have so many of these high-profile adultery problems? I know…Moving on…

So while we’ve all been closely watching Wisconsin, Michigan has been having political conniptions of its own, to wit:

According to the law, which has already been approved in the House, the governor will be able to declare “financial emergency” in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services.Under the law whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down.

Did you read that, kids? “Whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight.” Anyone out there freaking out? God knows I am. Ah, and before I forget, the full story is here.

So here’s the gist of the bill: under a financial emergency, the governor could appoint someone to dissolve a city, or school district, fire employees, sell public assets and eliminate services willy-nilly simply to answer a perceived crisis, and without any review or oversight whatsoever.

Now before I begin to talk about how scary this is, can I point out that while the Republicans always say the Democrats are the party of large government and restrictive rules and dislike of freedoms, they’re the ones who have created and passed the Patriot Act, expanded wiretapping rules, creation of the TSA, and this fiasco-in-the-making? The implicit statement in this law, and from what I’ve seen in the debate about the bill, is that the public is either too stupid, sentimental, or incapable of grasping the depth of the problem as well as the Republican leadership can. Um, guys, do you really think calling your electorate stupid is a good campaign idea? You accused the Democrats of bully tactics in passing health care reform, so just what the hell is this?

And really, even in tough economic times, do you really want to find your city government suddenly dissolved right out from under you? And in Michigan, we can all assume one prime target here: Detroit. The city has a massive budget problem, and a dwindling population, so this leaves you with two questions: is this bill really just a misguided attempt to fix financial problems in a cash-strapped state? Or is it really just a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate politicians and characters who the current GOP leadership doesn’t like?

The only question left once this bill passes is which will come first: the legal challenge, or the first attempt to use the provisions in the law to manage the “financial emergency?”

See you tomorrow.