Words do hurt
“I can cut somebody’s throat and leave them to bleed out in the gutter with the best of them,” so bragged Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr early in his reign. “For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich,” he told the Wall Street Journal in August.
“Can I kill someone in a hoodie?” asked Orr’s chief financial officer James Bonsall this month when invited to join city workers’ tradition of patrolling the neighborhoods, all while saying he would not subject his family to that.
Words reveal the human psyche. And so, it seems the appointees of Gov. Rick Snyder who are now in control of city government reflect ill intent. The attitudes revealed in these random comments have come through in public policy from Snyder to Orr and down to Orr’s appointees.
While paying his former co-workers and partners up to $1000 an hour for bankruptcy legal work expected to total over $100 million before he leaves town, Orr never blinks when it comes to trimming the health and retirement benefits of current and retired workers — down to 10 cents on the dollar. These are elderly persons who contributed from their pay checks to the funds Orr now wants to take to pay the banks. The average pension of a city worker is $18,000 annually. The retirees are too old to go out and find new work to pay their bills. Like Orr says, he can slit throats with the best of them.
This attitude of complete indifference to human life, the value of workers and work can be traced to the governor’s office. There, testimony in the bankruptcy court shows, Snyder started within weeks of his inauguration to put the city under Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Jones Day and Attorney General Bill Schuette are arguing in bankruptcy court in the hopes of keeping out of court the full and complete emails with their attachments that flowed between the governor, his aide and Jones Day.
Attorneys for the unions and the retirees see those emails as crucial to their case. The emails reveal a clear and deliberate attempt by Snyder and Jones Day to skirt the constitutional ban on touching pensions. Let’s “federalize it” are the words they used in the effort, making the Michigan Constitution moot. It was a conspiracy — running from the revival of the Emergency Manager law in the form of PA 436, to the consent degree, to the hiring of Jones Day, Kevyn Orr and the rush to federal court. It took the collaboration of six council persons — Pugh, Brown, Jenkins, Cockrel, Tate and Spivey — and a weak mayor, but Snyder’s determination and Jones Day’s greed saw it through. Corporate media’s complicity remains key, telling only parts of the story.
Throughout the process the people have been ignored.
Now the federal trial to determine the city’s eligibility for bankruptcy has begun. Most hurtful are the words, “We, the city,” when uttered by Jones Day attorneys. The city is the citizens who turned out to protest every step of the Snyder takeover, the pensioners marching outside the courthouse in the hopes of keeping a roof over their heads and the hundreds of thousands who have lost their vote to PA 436.
We hope, Snyder and Orr will see their day of reckoning and their true intentions come to light: to show the nation how to shed pension liabilities and privatize the public realm. We urge those who are able to attend. The trial runs daily until, at least, Oct. 29. Let the court see despite the disrespect, the downright hatred evidenced by official words and actions, despite the illegalities and immoralities imposed upon us, we want to see justice done. We want PA436 declared unconstitutional and the Jones Day robbers run out of town. We want self-determination.