“President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he believes America’s ‘dangerous and growing’ income inequality represents the ‘defining challenge of our time,’ indicating that he intends to put social mobility at the center of his remaining second-term agenda.” The remarks by the president, who said the issue of inequality ‘drives everything I do in this office,’ begins a piece at al Jazeerathis morning.
Everything he does in office? One recalls Obama bailing out banksters and allowing their victims to go under, increasing military spending every year he’s been in office, expanding the corporate wars. Under Obama the inequality has grown to levels we’ve not experienced since the days of the robber barons, and it’s happened because of his policies.
In his speech yesterday Obama said he now wants to raise the minimum wage. Why didn’t he want this when Democrats controlled both houses of the Congress at the start of his administration? One is reminded of President Clinton pulling the same scam, silent when Dems held both houses of Congress in his first two years, then calling for a raise in the minimum wage when Republicans took over the Congress, as though he really cared about the poor (recall his “welfare reform,” throwing poor children into the streets).
In fact, the last raise in the minimum wage was signed by President Bush.
Many will fall for Obama’s scam, but the fact remains, he has served those who funded his campaigns– the banksters, polluters and defense cheats who also fund the Republicans, which is why we have the severe inequality that has grown since he became president.
Obama’s duplicitous rhetoric is being aired because his popularity is low and his lame duck status is setting in a little earlier because of it. He hopes to fool the faithful that he somehow cares, despite his contrary history, going back to his votes as a Senator.
“Low wage fast food employees across the country are joining forces Thursday, taking to the streets to say: ‘Low pay is not okay.’
The action marks the largest planned demonstration yet in a movement that has swelled over the past year, with workers uniting around the call for $15 dollars an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation,” begins a piece at Common Dreams.
Workers have realized the owners may be able to move their profits offshore to hide them from taxes, and other tricks to avoid social responsibility in our hopelessly corrupt system, but they can’t move their stores to China as manufacturers have done. Still, with unemployment high and a ruthless ownership in the industry, workers are showing great courage to strike, and we hope our members find ways to support their local fast food employees, including helping them to effectively organize for the long run.
I’m angry over what happened to the people of Detroit. Democracy has been undermined in order to ensure taxpayer dollars get to banksters, at the cost of such things as the pensions of working class people who devoted their working lives to the public interest.
If I were in charge, I would tell the bankers and other corporations seeking payment what they tell working class people in need: get a job, you scumbag. Priority one should be to make sure that teachers, police and other city workers get their pensions, the infrastructure is taken care of, schools are funded, that sort of thing. If there’s a dime left over and not needed for other purposes, give it to the bankers, but only then.
Certainly this is how the poor are treated, the first thing cut in the federal budget is food stamps– even after the taxpayers fronted billions of dollars so recently for bonuses going to banksters who destroyed our economy causing millions to lose their homes and more millions to lose their jobs. Nor do our leaders consider cutting any of the thousand overseas military bases, the idiotic wars, or other billions in corporate welfare.
The ruling Forces of Greed have rigged things so that democracy in Detroit is nothing more than dust in the wind. Make no mistake about it, the class war is taking more casualties each day. It is time to start erecting guillotines in every public square in the land. The guillotines need not be working models, they may be made of cardboard– it is the reminder of what has happened in the past from growing inequality that is important, and the ruling forces of greed need to be reminded that having a 97th yacht as the masses go hungry may not be as important as keeping one’s head.
The goal of LUV News has always been to inspire peaceful revolution, by creating a critical mass of informed citizens, but should we fail and the mainstream press manage to keep the masses ignorant, those ignorant masses will eventually explode in violence that cannot be contained, as has happened so many times in the past, when the ignorant rich extended their incessant greed too far for their own good –Jack Balkwill
Detroit elected a new mayor November 5 and he will take office in less than a month. But the future of this great American city and its citizens isn’t being defined by decisions made by voters on Election Day. It is being defined in federal bankruptcy court—and by an “emergency manager” who has no democratic legitimacy.
With a ruling Tuesday by US Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, Detroit officially becomes the largest US city ever to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Despite a determination that negotiations with creditors outside of bankruptcy court had not satisfied good-faith requirements, the judge cleared the way for the emergency manager and his law firm to advance a “plan of adjustment” that is likely to include deep cuts in pension guarantees for retired city employees and a “fire sale” of city assets that could result in public utilities and the Detroit Institute of Arts collection being bartered off to private bidders.
What Judge Rhodes has done is not the end of the bankruptcy process. It is merely the beginning. But the process has been framed in a manner that runs the risk of undermining the city’s long-term recovery by taking money away from the most vulnerable residents of Detroit. As Jordan Marks, executive director of the National Public Pension Coalition notes, “In the bankruptcy, the modest pensions of Detroit’s firefighters, police officers, and other city employees could be all but wiped out, even as Wall Street banks continue to extract hundreds millions of dollars from the city’s economy. This is a dark day for people of Detroit who worked hard, played by the rules, and are now at risk of losing everything.”
By Tuesday afternoon, according to Reuters, the emergency manager, Kevin Orr, had “called on unions to help bridge gaps with the city on planned pension cuts.”
There is no question that Detroit, like many American cities, faces fiscal challenges. But instead of assuring that those challenges are met in the most humane and functional manner, the city is being steered into a wrenching process of restructuring that—by all appearances—will be based on flawed math, flawed priorities and an exceptionally flawed understanding of how democracy is supposed to work.
In a groundbreaking new study of Detroit’s finances, the think tank Demos explains that claims regarding Detroit’s debts have been dramatically inflated to make a case that the city must go bankrupt. According to Demos, proponents of the bankruptcy move have manipulated the numbers by combining statewide and city debts. “Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, asserts that the city is bankrupt because it has $18 billion in long-term debt. However, that figure is irrelevant to analysis of Detroit’s insolvency and bankruptcy filing, highly inflated and, in large part, simply inaccurate,” argues the Demos analysis, which was prepared former investment banker Wallace C. Turbeville. “In reality, the city needs to address its cash flow shortfall, which the emergency manager pegs at only $198 million, although that number too may be inflated because it is based on extraordinarily aggressive assumptions of the contributions the city needs to make to its pension funds.”
By relying on what the Demos study identifies as “extraordinarily aggressive assumptions”—and by accepting premises advanced by the same financial institutions that urged Detroit officials to make unwise financial choices—the judge has shaped a bankruptcy process that errs on the side of helping Wall Street rather than the citizens of Detroit.
At the same time, the judge has empowered an emergency manager who has a track record of acting on those “simply inaccurate” premises, rather than the officials just chosen by Detroit voters to guide their city toward fiscal and social stability.
The judge’s decision gives the essential authority to guide the city’s affairs to Orr, the “emergency manager” selected by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who in 2010 lost the city of Detroit by a 20-1 margin. Though barely 5 percent of Detroit voters thought Snyder should be calling any of the shots regarding their state and city, he is now—via his emergency manager, with the approval of the bankruptcy judge he asked to intervene—calling the shots.
And what of the new mayor, Mike Duggan, a veteran county official and highly regarded manager who won 55 percent of the vote in last month’s election?
“The only authority I’m going to have is the authority I can convince the governor and emergency manager to assign me,” Duggan, a Democrat, told reporters in November. “I’m attempting to persuade them. We’ll see.”
Duggan says he’s “going to do everything I can to advocate on behalf of Detroit’s future in this process. We need to make sure the retirees are treated fairly on the pensions they earned.” But, despite the fact that he will be the city’s mayor, he does not have the final say even on questions of whether the city will keep commitments to retired firefighters and police officers.
This is not what democracy looks like.
This is not the will of the people of Detroit.
We know that because the emergency manager power that Snyder has used to steer the city into bankruptcy, and that the governor and his appointee will now use to guide the city’s affairs, was rejected by the city’s voters in 2012.
Snyder had to develop the new emergency manager law after a previous version of the legislation—which he had used to take over smaller cities—was overturned by Michigan voters in a statewide referendum. In Detroit, 82 percent of voters said they did not want the emergency manager law. But they got it anyway. So it is that, while Mayor Duggan may be assigned some responsibilities, he will not have the clearly defined authority that an elected mayor should have to protect pensions, preserve labor agreements and set priorities when it comes to the delivery of basic services.
This is a vital distinction to recognize as media outlets report on the judge’s decision and the bankruptcy process.
As retiring Detroit City Council member JoAnn Watson reminds us: The city of Detroit did not file for municipal bankruptcy.
“The emergency manager (EM) filed the bankruptcy petition, and he is an appointee of the governor of the state of Michigan based on Act 436—a law formerly known as PA 4—which was repealed by 2.3 million Michigan citizens statewide on Nov. 6, 2012,” explains Watson. “The EM is only accountable to the governor, the EM only answers to the governor, and the EM can only be ‘checked and balanced’ by the governor.”
The new mayor and the new city council will not have the essential democratic authority to “check and balance” the emergency manager—or to guide the process that Watson argues “has clearly been crafted in a right-wing playbook to seize assets, dismember electorate voting powers, dismantle unions and the families/neighborhoods supported by union jobs, disable local elected officials, smear and tarnish the image and viability of Black elected leadership, and broadly claim that the legacy costs related to retiree pensions are largely to blame for the city’s debt crisis.”
Watson’s frustration is real. And appropriate.
Detroit’s greatest challenge has not been municipal governance. It has been deindustrialization, which has shuttered hundreds of factories and left hundreds of thousands of city residents unemployed or underemployed. And that great challenge extends beyond Detroit.
Too many American cities face financial challenges similar to those that have destabilized Detroit. Snyder’s anti-democratic “answer” could well become the model for a response to those challenges that begins by blaming the victims and ultimately denies them a full and effective franchise.
“I believe Detroit and Michigan are ‘test cases’ for certain right-wing agents who want to do all they can to control future elections for this nation’s highest office and other posts,” says Watson. “Voter suppression, including the Supreme Court’s role in gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965, are not incidental to the myriad of malevolence in Michigan.”
There is a lot more at stake in Detroit, and in Michigan, than one city’s balance sheet.
Our understanding of democracy, itself, is being subverted.
The voters of Michigan sent a clear signal last fall. They rejected emergency-manager authoritarianism.
Unfortunately, a federal bankruptcy judge has sided with a governor who could not win an election in Detroit and an approach that Detroit voters rejected.
This has nothing to do with budgeting, debt or broader fiscal matters. Those issues could, and should, be addressed by an elected mayor and city council.
This has everything to do with allowing unelectable and unelected officials—and the interests they serve—to achieve political results that could not be secured at the ballot box.
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