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The cuckoo nest

The U.S. government will go to war in the name of democracy — Libya, Vietnam, Iraq. But protecting democracy at home does not seem as crucial.

Massive U.S. forces are going to support this international fight. As the U.S. Treasury is drained for bombs, drones and bullets, less and less is available for housing, job creation, education or quality of life at home, creating financial crises that threaten democracy domestically.

As a result, there is pressure on the states with less funding for every possible need taxpayers think will be met as they dutifully pay their taxes. The states, in turn, put pressure on local communities. It is happening all across the country, but here in Detroit, Highland Park, Benton Harbor, Flint and Pontiac — mostly Black communities — the pain inflicted by cost-cutting decreases not only the quality of life, but democracy itself.

Michigan is using emergency managers as a measure levied in the name of fiscal management.

Emergency management is public policy failure. Highland Park suffered one for nine years and remains under threat of another takeover as it constantly faces debt. The city’s McGregor Library has never reopened, street lights have been removed and code enforcement is non-existent, adding to the ever-growing list of demolition needs.

The Detroit Public schools have been under state control for 10 of the last 11 years and we have witnessed a declining fiscal outlook along with plummeting student achievement. While DPS taxpayers pay added taxes for capital improvement via bond issues to build new schools and refurbish buildings, now the state is taking — without consent of even one voter — some of those same buildings, along with students they have deemed “failing.” Those resources are going into a state system with no other students but Detroit’s.

All of these actions are achieved by single actors, the state-appointed emergency managers, without benefit of checks and balances, transparency or, in plain words, democratic protections.

Now, when the state threatens but really doesn’t want an EM for Detroit — because Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says it will hurt his bond rating — the turncoat Democrat Andy Dillon has drafted a consent agreement that takes over just as an EM would, but cloaks the power grab in the guise of an oversight review board. This document strips the elected Detroit officials of any meaningful power or authority.

When Dillon promoted this agreement before the Council of Baptist Pastors, Rev. Tellis Chapman asked whether there was some way to incorporate the protection of civil rights. Dillon told him, “The review team cannot do anything that would jeopardize Detroit’s bond rating.” There it is, folks. It is the banks that are in charge of U.S. democracy.

Designers of predatory lending, the practice that led to the 72,000 plus foreclosures that have devastated Detroit and other predominantly Black and poor cities now under emergency managers, these banks never faced a state-imposed moratorium on foreclosures as the activists, citizens and taxpayers have for years pleaded for. These same banks enjoyed trillions in U.S. bailouts as citizens got put out.

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