Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rachel Maddow and Michigan’s Poor Blacks

On her MSNBC show last week, progressive commentator Rachel Maddow once again aimed her snarky, facts-be-damned, rhetorical flamethrower at the ongoing controversy of emergency legislation designed to rescue the economically devastated town of Benton Harbor.

Michigan cities from tiny Benton Harbor to Flint to Pontiac all the way up to Detroit are in the death grip of a financial crisis in the wake of the housing crash and near collapse of the auto industry. In a desperate move to turn things around, Republican Governor Rick Snyder invoked Public Act 4, legislation that allows him to appoint city managers to take over cities in dire financial circumstances and enact drastic austerity measures. These managers are empowered to renegotiate union contracts, amend budgets, eliminate departments, even overrule or remove mayors and other elected officials if necessary.

The law's supporters say it allows for a more effective response to the state’s budget crisis. Even ABC acknowledged that these emergency measures are rescuing a growing number of cities from bankruptcy and thus preserving vital services for the citizens, including the same blacks that Maddow claims are being victimized by the procedure.

But the law’s critics call it an illegal power grab (a “hostile takeover,” as a Mother Jones magazine headline refers to it) to overthrow local leaders and dissolve public-sector unions. Detroit’s Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice has even filed a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality (keep in mind that “social justice” is the left’s code phrase for a movement promoting anti-capitalist class warfare).

As she has ever since she began covering the story a year ago, the incessantly inflammatory Maddow attacked Michigan Republicans in her April 2, 2012 segment for subverting democracy, “stripping” the impoverished blacks in Benton Harbor of their right to rule themselves, and installing a “tyrant” who “will have unilateral power to destroy the town if he wants to, to dissolve it.” This is typical fear-mongering hyperbole on her part – the city manager is not there to destroy the dysfunctional town, but to keep forewarned public unions and wasteful local politicians from driving it deeper into economic ruin.

Terry Stanton, information officer for Michigan's Department of the Treasury, told ABC last year that the intention of the law is to protect the health, welfare and safety of local government:

No one likes to see their authority taken away. But it's important to note that oftentimes it was the elected officials who were the ones unable or unwilling to address financial problem before they got crisis stage… The goal is never to have to appoint another emergency manager.

Where circumstances require one, ABC noted in its piece free of Maddow’s hysteria, the manager's mission is to go in, make necessary budget and staffing changes, and get out as soon as possible, to allow the town to return to self-governance.

Benton Harbor was the first place in which the city manager was appointed (Flint has also been turned over to one, and Detroit could be next). It’s population is largely black – in fact, the “San Francisco Bayview National Black Newspaper,” which bills itself as “the most visited Black newspaper on the web,” calls it “the chocolate city” of Benton Harbor (imagine the gleeful shrieks of outrage from Maddow and her MSNBC ilk if Fox News or FrontPage Mag referred to Benton Harbor as a “chocolate city”).

And so the left, always on the lookout for an opportunity to contort a story to suit their divisive racialist narrative, has made the little town the flashpoint for the controversy and has stoked the flames with an entire deck full of race cards in order to demonize Republicans. “Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz [her MSNBC cohort] Highlight Black Cities Taken Over by Michigan 'Tyrants,'” reads one headline on a news website catering to blacks [italics added]. Demagogue Jesse Jackson, Jr., the race-baiting equivalent of an ambulance-chasing attorney, penned a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed a year ago in which he wrote that Benton Harbor “may become to economic justice what the small town of Selma was to civil rights.”

In her coverage, Maddow repeatedly refers to Gov. Snyder and the managers as tyrants denying democracy to the city’s poor black inhabitants, even creatively linking the managers to the idea of “enhanced interrogation.” In her April 2 segment she painted the state’s Republicans as destroyers of democracy:

What Governor Rick Snyder and the Republicans in the state legislature have done is upend the idea that in America, we elect people to represent us. In American we are represented by a democratic form of government. Michigan Republicans are ripping that idea out by the roots.

Her condescending civics lesson conveniently ignores 1) the fact that Snyder and the Republican majority were themselves democratically elected by the people of Michigan to help solve this mess, 2) that Benton Harbor’s emergency manager Joe Harris (who is black) was actually appointed under the previous governor, a Democrat, and 3) that a survey from last year shows that Benton Harbor’s citizens support by a two-to-one margin “the nullification of Benton Harbor’s labor agreements if it would help decrease the city’s deficit.” Apparently, FrontPage writer David Forsmark noted a year ago about the poll, those citizens

care more about whether a fire truck will show up at their house, or a cop will respond to an armed robbery than whether the city council’s feathers are ruffled — or whether the city’s garbage collectors will continue to make about 4 times the average income (plus benefits) of the people who pay their wages.

“In Rick Snyder’s Michigan,” Maddow declared with her usual flare for untruth, “democracy is considered part of the problem.” Nonsense. No one’s trying to rid the state of democracy; the law is a last-ditch temporary effort to ensure the state’s solvency and the survival of the poor blacks Maddow pretends to care about. But progressives like Maddow and Jesse Jackson only care about poverty-stricken minorities insofar as the latter are useful in perpetuating the formers’ narrative of racial victimization at the hands of Evil White Republicans – not to mention perpetuating minority dependency on big government.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 4/13/12)