Last night Rachel Maddow accused Republicans of implementing a “Really Really Really BIG government” agenda. The argument may seem outlandish to many, since Republicans are traditionally known as the party of “small government.” However, Maddow claims that the GOP is not implementing their “big government” agenda on the federal level, but instead using state governments to override the rights of individuals and the powers of local towns.
Maddow’s prime example came in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In 2010 the Republicans were able to gain control of the governorship and legislature in Michigan. They have used that majority to pass a budget bill which allows the state government to literally take control of the local government within the state. Under the bill, if the state determines a town is in a “financial emergency” they can then appoint a financial manager over the town with near absolute power over local officials. The state of Michigan also now has the power to simply abolish a town which it determines is “failing.” The first town to be put under state control by Republican Governor Rick Snyder was Benton Harbor, with possibly tragic results for the town’s residents.
As Maddow explains, under state control the town of Benton Harbor is now being forced to give up one of their public resources (a park which features a public beach on Lake Michigan) in order to build a private golf course. The annual fee for playing on the course will be $5,000, approximately half the average income of a resident of Benton Harbor. The residents of Benton Harbor have not voted to give up their park, but they are essentially powerless to stop the state action. The town’s residents have essentially been robbed of their power to elect their own local officials.
Furthermore, Benton Harbor is hardly the only example of such “big government” measures being implemented by Republicans. In Texas, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina the Republican legislatures are attempting to pass laws which will require drug testing to receive unemployment benefits. Arizona and Georgia have passed laws allowing law enforcement to demand papers proving citizenship. Six Republican-controlled states are actually trying to regulate abortions and/or stipulate what a doctor can tell a woman about an abortion when she goes in for a visit. In Missouri the Republican legislature passed a measure which explicitly repealed an anti-puppy mill initiative passed by the voters of Missouri last fall.
Maddow urges Democrats to point out this trend, and to campaign on the idea that they are truly the party of “smaller government.”