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‘No’ to a Wall Street dictator on the city

By Charles Brown

The unelected emergency financial manager at the Detroit Public Schools system has demonstrated dictatorial characteristics. We must preempt the threat of a financial dictator over the city of Detroit.

A financial manager usurps the powers of democratically elected officials in order to give priority to financial and Wall Street interests over the interests of city workers and citizens’ city services, the public health, safety and welfare, the purpose of government in America.

But are city officials to blame for Detroit’s financial and economic crisis, such that their powers should be handed to a financial dictator who represents private power?

We live in a private enterprise system. This means private business leaders, not public officials, make the decisions that determine the ups and downs of our economy. Detroit’s financial crisis is rooted in the problems of the city’s auto-dependent economy.

The news media ignores this fact. A couple of years ago, it has successfully promoted a big lie in much of the public’s minds: That City Council members’ alleged dishonesty and incompetence are the cause of the city’s deficit. The canard that the last City Council is or was largely unfit caught on. The result was five new Council members and a new mayor in the election of November 2009.

But they are facing exactly the same problem as their predecessors. And so will any “financial manager.” The financial dictator over the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) has increased the system’s deficit. The state lies in omission and covers up the fact that its agent and therefore the state of Michigan itself has acted fiscally incompetent, irresponsible and unaccountable with the Detroit school system.

Where should the money come from to fix Detroit’s deficit? The federal government. I say that without any hesitation. If Wall Street could be bailed out to the tune of $7.7 to 16 trillion (latest report and previous audit reported by Sen. Bernie Sanders), Detroit can be bailed out for $300 million or $400 million, or more.

Let me see if I can get the math precisely: $7.7 trillion is $7,700 billion, or $7.7 million times a million. I gather that $1 billion would bail out the city. So for less than 0.2 percent of what Wall Street and too-big-to-fail banks were bailed out for, Detroit would have three years to repair its structural revenue problems.

Uh, can you spare 1/770th of what you gave the rich bankers? And you gave it to them, so we want it as a gift, not a loan. Bail out Detroit as Wall Street was bailed out.

Notice that the biggest boys in the private sector were more broke than Detroit, and they were bailed out by the mythically inefficient public sector, Big Government. Some of that federal money that they gave the Wall Street banks is our tax money, money from the people of Detroit. No moral hazard for the predatory mortgage companies and the 1 percent, but there’s somehow a moral hazard for the victims of foreclosures, the 99 percent.

On another aspect of this mess, the main adverse effect of an “emergency” (and a budget deficit does not cause an emergency for the public health, welfare and safety) financial manager in Detroit will be mass firing and wage and benefit reductions for Detroit city workers. If I might be allowed a little poetic license I’d channel former Mayor Coleman A. Young: Bump that! If they can give the motherscratchers who bankrupted Wall Street mega bonuses, they can continue to pay basic wages and benefits to Detroit workers, who provide average Americans with services at least as important as financial services.

City worker jobs, government jobs and public jobs are real jobs. Detroiters need jobs, especially right now — decent jobs with good benefits. Detroit workers losing jobs will add to the city’s deficit because of lost taxes from income and property. It will, of course, put more Detroiters into economic dire straights.

The Reaganite story that “government is big and bad and free enterprise is lean and mean” has been exposed as a big lie by the bankruptcy of the private sector’s largest corporations in the last years. The “system-threatening” bankruptcies of Wall Street and General Motors should put an end to the notion of private enterprise’s superiority to public enterprise. The trouble is that the press (oh ye, of Bill of Rights fame) is privatized.

Speaking of “privatized,” a big portion of the city of Detroit’s work is done in privatized contracts, a whole other can of worms by which a larger percentage of taxpayers’ money goes to private profits rather to than workers’ wages and benefits. Many of these contracting companies are outside of Detroit, so this adds to deficit problems.

The state of Michigan itself has been well known to be have a very large deficit/debt due to many of the current legislature’s fiscal irresponsibility; and it got a big federal bailout. The state has no business appointing emergency financial dictators on Detroit when it can’t keep in the black itself.

Detroit’s deficit is also due to the decisions by the private sector to move so much of the former robust Detroit business sector out of the city over the last 50 years. This is another way in which the private sector is responsible for Detroit’s plight. As I said, this is a private enterprise system and Detroit public officials have essentially no power over this major trend. They have no authority to start city-owned enterprises that might substitute for the runaway plants, shops and businesses.

As evidenced by many of the letters to the editor in Detroit’s newspapers, the city’s deficit is aggravated by the many years of suburban and outstate white supremacy directed at Detroit, and “Englerism” (former Republican Gov. John Engler passed 32 tax cuts giving tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy).

Since becoming majority Black due to white flight, Detroit has been the victim of a virtual blockade, something like that on Cuba or Haiti. As I discussed in an earlier article, Detroit is unforgivably Black to the powers-that-be, headed for impoverishment like Haiti.

Yes, Detroit has corruption but no more than Wall Street or any other city, state or the federal government. Sensationalizing anti-Detroit media creates a wrong impression. Detroit is better than that! It’s as good as anywhere.

Importantly, it is not city workers’ or officials’ corruption or incompetence that has led to the fiscal crisis but the economic and financial incompetence and greed of Wall Street, banks and corporations.

Given the revenue streams that go straight to Wall Street from Detroit and the Wall Street bankers behind the land grab plan, it is accurate to characterize any “emergency” financial manager as a Wall Street financial dictator.

I say “Hell no” to that!

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