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Listening to Gov. Snyder you’d think Michigan is a business, he’s the CEO, and we’re all his customers. Just the other day, he urged GVSU graduates (in what must have been a truly inspirational speech) to treat “everyone like a customer.”

This is the most disingenuous – and dangerous – argument being pushed by the far-right, and it has a very specific purpose: convincing you that privatizing traditional government services – and government itself – is not only reasonable, but just. Once you’ve accepted we’re all customers, why shouldn’t we privatize government services? Better yet, why not just have the company send you a bill in the mail (if you’ve ever had to call your cable provider because your bill went up for no reason you can imagine how well this would work)?

To corporate-backed politicians like Gov. Rick Snyder and pseuo-think tanks like the Mackinac Center, this argument makes perfect sense:

  1. The government provides services.
  2. Citizens pay for those services.
  3. So why not start calling citizens “customers” and turn the government into a hodgepodge of private contracts so our corporate sponsors can make money in the process?

In the perfect world where consumer protections are unbreakable, maybe this would make sense. But we don’t exist in a perfect world. In the real world, you can’t simply “shop around” for your favorite lawmaker, school, or veteran’s care home.

To the far-right, government is a business with a wide-open market – a market that hasn’t been fully saturated by for-profit corporations looking to make a quick buck. To the CEO looking to pad his bottom line government presents the perfect opportunity: a nearly untapped market just waiting to be exploited.

And that’s what they’re trying to do: exploit taxpayers to make a profit. Whether it’s privatized veteran’s home and prisons that suffer from overcrowding and violence, or for-profit charter schools that put more money into advertising to attract more pupils at the expense of a quality education, the end result is the same: “customers” suffer.

That is, you and I – citizens – suffer. That’s not right. Tell Gov. Snyder, the Mackinac Center, and the rest of the bought-and-paid-for far-right that we’re not customers, and Michigan is not for sale.

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