Michigan… come for the great lakes, stay for the corporate oligarchy

According to the Detroit News, our Governor’s secret education privatization task force, nicknamed the Skunk Works, was just the tip of the iceberg. Apparently, in spite of Snyder’s pledge to bring unprecedented transparency to Lansing, a great deal of the legislation coming out of the Capital these days seems to be the product of corporate donors contributing through secret work groups. I think Royal Oak Education Association President Sidney Kardon summed it up nicely today in his Detroit News editorial, when he said, “Michigan is no longer functioning as a democracy. It is a corporate oligarchy in which aides and friends of the governor create policy in secretive groups.” Now, the big question is, what are we going to do about it?

Here’s Kardon’s editorial in its entirety.

Vouchers for students, under the deceptive guise of education reform are all but a done deal given the behind-the-scenes machinations of Gov. Rick Snyder and his staff.

The impetus for vouchers is coming from the Oxford Foundation, a private group that is run by two of Snyder’s top aides, Rod Davenport and David Behen.

Other Snyder appointees have been involved in a secret group calling themselves a “skunk works” group which supports the educational ideology of the Oxford Foundation, which is the ability for students to take their state funding to other communities and private vendors.

The group’s been using public funds to advance their corporate agenda in the form of using the state employee e-mail system during work hours, a minor blip in the overarching conversion of public tax dollars to corporate coffers. After the presence of the group became public via The Detroit News, State Superintendent of Education Mike Flanagan scrambled to quickly announce the formation of a public group to assess and improve Michigan’s public education system.

Snyder, in acknowledging the existence of a shadow government, stated that the group’s work has “no specific objective.”

But Snyder’s penchant for lying is well known. Right up to the final moments prior to passage of anti-union right-to-work legislation, he had ensured union leaders that he would not sign the bill into law. Earlier in his tenure he had publicly proclaimed that he had no interest in right to work, as he felt it was unnecessary and divisive. Snyder is lying again. Slowly dismantling public education for private gain is part and parcel of the Republican Party’s self-serving corporate agenda.

The voucher program works by cheapening the quality of education in profit-making charters by the use of video conferences to teach students. This means the charter can hire fewer teachers since students would learn via long distance video conferences. The excess money produced will be ‘given’ to students to spend in any educational venue of their choice which would include vendors such as corporate cyber schools. K12, a prominent corporate cyber school is hugely profitable and hugely irresponsible to its students.

Private corporations serve stockholders, not students.

Michigan is no longer functioning as a democracy. It is a corporate oligarchy in which aides and friends of the governor create policy in secretive groups.

The Republican Legislature is always happy to advance the corporate agenda, to the detriment of our students, public schools, and communities.

How long will Michiganians tolerate the assault on community schools to turn a profit? Snyder and his cabal of aides do not care about our kids, our communities, or our democracy. They only care about their profits. Phrases like “education reform” and the assault on unions were only stepping stones to the real right wing objective: Ensuring that you and your kids are profitable to companies.

And one last thing, as long as we’re talking about transparency… a little something humorous, to cheer you up in the face of corporate oligarchy.

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  1. Kristin
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Snyder really is a lying liar. Who is going to run against him?

  2. Kristin
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 2:11 am | Permalink


  3. wobblie
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    there latest plan is to take money from education and spend it on roads


  4. Maria
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Somebody honest? That’ll real throw Snyder.

  5. Maria
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Correction, I meant to write
    Somebody honest should run against Snyder. That’ll really throw him.

  6. Maria
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Honestly, if I had one piece of advice for Lon Johnson, it would be to make sure the Democratic candidate for governor is grade A, squeaky clean. Just imagine what kind of tactics might be used against the Democratic candidate if Snyder has a skunk’s work project on something so everyday as school funding. That candidate will likely be subject to intense scrutiny. I don’t know a thing about Mark Schaure, good or bad, but John Austin seems to be a man of his word.

  7. Aaron B.
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I am really disappointing in Snyder. I almost voted for him but my gut told me to vote Democrat, despite thinking Snyder might be a different kind of politician. Even after he was elected, I really had an open mind about him but my gut was 110% correct and he has shown his true colors.

  8. Edward
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    My sense is that Snyder is just incredibly weak. I don’t think he’s evil. I just think he’s in way, way over his head. He thought that, because he ran a company, he could come in and run a state. That’s not how it works, though. People didn’t just do what he said, the way that he thought that they would. And he wasn’t strong enough to push back against the far right. Instead of playing the political game, twisting arms, and playing hardball, he just rolled over because he wanted their votes for the things that he thought were important. I could respect him more if he were truly evil.

  9. Maria
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Hmmm @ Edward, I’m not sure I think of him as either weak or evil. He has an MO though, that works for him and those around him, and it’s the MO that’s in charge, so to speak. He sides with businesses, always first, and he posits he will deliver public good with advancing businesses agendas, especially start ups. I say that because when he got rid of the small business tax, he actually increased taxes on the autos and other big companies. He’s pro entrepreneur, first, foremost, and always, and he likes to present deals as done deals, or at least keep the plan as quiet as long as possible until the last possible minute. That MO was really on display when RTW was passed.

  10. Maria
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    And really, the motif of the election has been defined and cast by none other than Rick Snyder himself. It’s all about integrity. Is his word any good?
    There are merits about how to do something in different ways, those arguments can go on and on, but when someone has destroyed trust, well, it’s difficult if not impossible to regain it. A person knows, at a very base level, when they have been hosed by someone, and they don’t forget it.

  11. Edward
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what his motivations are. He sucks. He lies. He doesn’t care about our kids. He has to go.

  12. Maria
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I didn’t vote for him the first time, and I wouldn’t never vote for him in the future. It was what happened in December last year that sealed that decision for me.

  13. Maria
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Let me clearer,( because I have a typo on the previous post) I would never, ever, ever vote for that man after what happened in December. What a breach of trust!

  14. Knox
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I had been of the opinion for a long time that Sndyer and others on the right have absolutely no appreciation for teachers, just seeing them as glorified, script reading babysitters. I don’t think that’s right, though. I think they value good teachers and believe that they should be well paid. But not in the public school setting. They just don’t give a shit about the poor, and see absolutely no value in educating them. It’s a waste of money. They’re lazy. And their parents are lazy. If they weren’t, they’d pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get their kids into private school.

  15. Maria
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I do think Snyder cares about educating all kids. He’s just actually kind of naive about some realities, as scary as that is to think. It’s not like he has worked with kids, or even spent time volunteering at schools, (unless that’s something I missed somewhere along the line). So, when the EAA administration shows up and talks shop, Snyder couldn’t possibly know if they are blowing smoke or not, and there’s no way a guy like David Behen or even David Behen himself would have a clue either.

  16. Demetrius
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    As the Koch-ALEC-Snyder-Publicans continue working overtime to turn our once proud state into “Michissippi,” it is beyond depressing. Even more discouraging is how these skirmishes are shaping up into a lose-lose battle between “us” (the silent majority that continues to support fair wages, public education, liveable cities, a healthy environment, etc.) vs. “them” (the extremely vocal, and unnaturally powerful tea party/fundamentalist minority that steadfastly supports the 1% agenda of their corporate overlords).

    I’m convinced that if more people actually understood what is happening in Lansing, and what the long-term consequences are going to be for their families and communities — there would be widespread outrage, and concerted action to reverse these policies. Yet, understandably, most people are too busy just taking care of their families and trying to earn a living to pay that much attention.

    Meanwhile, our news media has mostly abdicated its civic responsibility to do actual investigative journalism and “reporting,” in favor of lifestyle fluff and chamber-of-commerce boosterism. Likewise, Michigan’s once-powerful unions, despite some saber-rattling following the recent “right-to-work” legislation, appear to have settled back down into their decades-long complacency … watching their membership (and their power) continue to erode. Worst of all … the Michigan Democratic Party seems to continue to lack the wherewithal to mount any kind of effective challenge to the outright takeover of many aspects of state government by corporate interests, let alone offer coherent set of policy alternatives that might actually inspire support … and votes.

    One can hope that now that Lon Johnson is heading up the MDP, he will be able to see the tremendous opportunity that exits to build a new legislative majority by mounting a robust challenge to these regressive policies, along with developing an ambitious and progressive policy agenda.

    If not the damage will be soon become permanent, if it isn’t becoming so already.

  17. Tammy
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Demetrius, you had me going!

    Then you close your lovely missive by placing your hopes in the hands of some professional politician.

    Ah well, some day perhaps you’ll take matters in to your very own hands.

  18. Oliva
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’m also happy and more hopeful having Lon Johnson as head of the MDP. For this I took matters into my own hands only insofar as spreading the word in favor of Johnson, who could be really effective heading the state Democratic Party, and we need that badly. And he has close connections to a very skilled political campaign operator/fund-raiser. Seems promising.

  19. Posted May 8, 2013 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    It saddens me when people I like and respect say that Snyder is not a bad man. I’m sorry to be the one to say this but yes, yes he is. He chose to ram that anti-union bullshit through (he could have vetoed it). Hell, he could have vetoed any number of things. He could have told his people to back the fuck off. But he didn’t because he is a bad, greedy man. For reasons I can’t fathom, he doesn’t want others to have a shot at a middle class lifestyle. He wants to only reward his fellow rich, greedy bastard friends at the expense of everyone else. He (and his ilk) want non-rich kids to get an education via some DVD.

    This guy isn’t weak, he isn’t fearful, he isn’t wishy-washy–he is a bad man who has no decency, no shame and who I believe will not rest until this state resembles mill towns of the NE pre-1930 where we all work six 10-12 hour days and make about $6/hour with no hope of escape to a better life. (Read “Sea Glass” if you need more of a description).

    I love you folks on here but you need to realize that this man is rotten down to his very dark, cold heart.

  20. Oliva
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    I should add that my spreading the word (along with bouts of fervent wishing) about Lon Johnson taking over probably didn’t have much tangible effect. But you never know . . .

  21. Tammy
    Posted May 9, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    It’s the people who happily hope elected leaders will change the way things are who enable all that’s wrong with what is. Don’t wait for Lon Johnson to change things. He cannot. But you can.

  22. Oliva
    Posted May 9, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Tammy, Maybe you can reveal some of your efforts or best methods? We worked to get Mark Brewer to step aside after eighteen years, and now things really do seem more promising. I don’t have the resources to find and furnish the next Democratic gubernatorial candidate and other viable candidates for other seats, but I do go door to door and do other work on behalf of good candidates. I’m not sure how an individual without great access and experience can do the job of a head of a state party. But I’d love to hear your ideas.

  23. Demetrius
    Posted May 9, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    @ Tammy.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that people should sit by passively waiting for Lon Johnson — or any other individual — to swoop in and save the day.

    My point was that Michigan Republicans have built an enormously well-funded and powerful machine that is working hard — right now — to dismantle public education, labor rights, environmental protections, etc., that are going to cripple our state for generations to come. To make that happen, they have turned capital building in Lansing into a kind of “show legislature”, where policy matters (such as “right-to-work” and “education reform”) get rubber-stamped after having been developed in top-secret, private/corporate-funded “skunk-works.”

    I’m no fan of our two-party system, but right now, it is hard to imagine what an appropriate (and effective) counter-balance to this juggernaut would be — short of a revitalized, feisty and *genuinely progressive* MDP that is able to inspire enough support among poor and working people to take back the legislature and governor’s office.

    Individual and small-group efforts are essential, to be sure, but at this point I can’t see how they can be any match against a legislature filled with amoral ALEC-robots fueled by unlimited piles of corporate cash.

  24. Kristin
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    So what does everyone think about Schauer? Along with others Stupak has thrown in his support this week, and I am decidedly anti-Stupak, but I don’t know enough about Schauer.

  25. Mr. Y
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Schauer definitely seems to have the momentum at the moment, as all the other big Dems are getting out of his way, issuing statements saying that they won’t run. I think that’s good sign. The Dems, it would appear, know how important it is that we have a unified front against Snyder. As for whether Schauer is the right person for the job, I’m not sure. I’d need to hear more from him. I’m on his email list, but I really don’t have a good sense of what his priorities would be, if he were to get into office.

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