It's deja vu all over again. A Republican governor's budget meets strong union resistance. Union members flood into the state capitol building. Hippie drum circles commence.
Okay, I haven't seen any drums YET, but I've heard all the familiar chants: "This is what democracy looks like!"; "Solidarity forever!"; and everyone's favorite "They got bailouts, we got sold out!" Liberal blog site DemocraticUnderground.com announced earlier: Occupation of Michigan State Capitol in Lansing Has Begun." Unions and other liberal interest groups are once again scheduling bus trips to bring protesters into Lansing from across the state.
Michigan's newly elected Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing to cut state taxes by $1.7 billion, financed in part by applying the state income tax to public and private pensions. Additionally, Snyder's budget seeks $360 million in wage concessions from state employees with half the savings coming from requiring a minimum 20 percent employee contribution toward their own health insurance costs.
Snyder's approach to a union "crackdown" has been much more modest than that of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who recently approved a measure stripping public unions of many collective bargaining privileges. In the past, Snyder has signaled opposition to so-called "Right to Work" legislation and efforts to get rid of prevailing wage rules which many say have had significant negative impacts on the state's ability to compete. Nevertheless, unions complain that Snyder's financial emergency legislation would allow state-appointed fiscal managers to terminate labor agreements.
Union bosses in Michigan are crying foul, arguing that pensioners are already struggling:
Speaking to thousands of union members from the steps of the Capitol, UAW President Bob King put Gov. Rick Snyder's budget and tax proposal in stark terms, asserting that it's designed to take money out of the pockets of those with low wages and fixed income in order to distribute it to "wealthy" business owners.
"This governor and this Republican Party want to take almost $2 billion more off of working people in Michigan and who does he want to give it to?" King yelled. "The wealthy, the corporations."
"And for this governor to want to steal from them to give it to the wealthy, is that wrong?" King asked. By eliminating the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, as Snyder's proposal does, "they want to increase taxes on people working every day, every week, the working poor in Michigan."
King called Snyder's efforts part of what he called a broad Republican "attack on the middle class."
Fresh from his appearance in Wisconsin, progressive filmmaker Michael Moore was on hand, streaming live video from the capitol building.
"I'm asking everyone who can to take Wednesday off and head to the State Capitol in Lansing to protest the cruel and downright frightening legislation currently being jammed down our throats," Moore wrote on his website. "Governor Snyder, once elected, yanked off his nice-guy mask to reveal that he is in fact a multi-millionaire hell-bent on destroying our state and turning it over to his buddies from Wall Street ... Trust me, you will rue the day you sat home and did nothing while thieves posing as politicians stole your Great Lakes State from you."
At the end of the day, state police successfully closed down the capitol building after arresting five student protesters for trespassing after they refused to leave.