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Stand up for Detroit, fight Wall Street

Across the country, cities and states are operating under deficit. Public debt is spiraling out of control — millions and billions of dollars owed. Public officials are responding by cutting city services, closing schools or making cuts that negatively impact our schools. All over, police officers, firemen, and the men and women that make our country work are being laid off and long-term benefits are being cut.

Cities and states are struggling to pay their debts to the banks. Debts to the bank are disproportionately benefitting Wall Street and equate to a billion dollar transfer to bankers from everyday people, every year. As a nation, we are stuck in untenable deals with financial institutions. It is time for the federal government to step in and demand accountability from the banks, the same banks the nation’s taxpayers bailed out in 2008.

This isn’t just a Detroit problem, as many would have you believe.

In Detroit, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has some power over the banks, too. As EM, Orr has the power to pursue prosecution of fraudulent activity that has resulted in receivership. This is something the EM should explore. And we say, along with Sen. Carl Levin, there is plenty of evidence of mal-intent on the part of the banks. Levin said this after the Senate investigation into bank practices: “Our investigation found a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest and wrongdoing.”

Either way, Orr must — if he is working to benefit the taxpayers — work to lower debt obligations. All over, cities are making the choice to pay the banks or pay the pensioners — all while cutting services.

A surprising number of these cities are choosing the banks. However, Stockton, Calif., choose pensioners, but the bankruptcy judge ordered that the banks be included. Orr has said he is watching what happens in Stockton.

If Orr’s record with Jones Day is any indication, undoubtedly Orr will be paying the banks, too. Jones Day, the large Cleveland-based law firm, counts as clients several of the financial institutions that hold Detroit’s debt. Orr, who specializes in bankruptcies, is the attorney who ruthlessly shut down over 700 auto dealers in the Chrysler bankruptcy proceedings.

Many Republicans are responding to this current cash crunch by cutting workers wages, eliminating pensions and taking a whack out of long-term debt obligations — just what Wall Street wants. There is another way: stop paying the banks. Force them to the table to renegotiate the obligations. Otherwise, our neighborhoods, schools and communities will continue to crumble as we pay the banks and the financiers exorbitantly profit.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has dedicated her career to fighting Wall Street for the benefit of Main Street. This is exactly the type of leadership we need.  Median income in the U.S. has fallen every year for the past 10 years, and the wealth divide is growing larger. The middle class is disappearing. As Michigan considers its leadership for Sen. Levin’s seat in 2014, let’s pick a representative who will join the growing national struggle for economic accountability.

In the meantime, continue to make your neighbor aware of the brewing financial crisis and let them know the way out of debt is forcing the banks to renegotiate. Much of this debt can be canceled. Wall Street got one bailout from taxpayers, let’s not give them more than that.



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