It wasn’t quite a bad national economy or even the Detroit municipal pension program that threw the Motor City into bankruptcy, it was right-wing, pro-corporate fiscal policy that did it. So of course the right-wingers want to make it seem like it wasn’t their fault.
In classic conservative fashion, faulty business models and misallocating funds to corporate interests over the backbone of Detroit’s labor force all but resulted in the city having to claim bankruptcy. As Salon blogger David Sirota notes, “the massive tax cuts and corporate subsidies are preserved, because we are led to believe they had nothing to do with the crisis.” Sirota is alluding to how Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is trying to shift all the focus onto Detroit’s $3.5 billion pension program. But workers only get a $19,000 annual pension, and now the city of Detroit wants to cut those pensions to even less.
Despite the bankruptcy masqueraded as a pension issue, the real issue and cause is bad money management. Michigan government’s have a past of such things. In 1975, $55 million of taxpayer money was spent on the Silverdome, the Detroit Lions’ home stadium. Almost 30 years later, $300 million was spent on the current Lions stadium, Ford Field, after the Silverdome was sold for a miniscule $583,000.
Perhaps more insulting to taxpayers is the continuance of plans to further subsidize the Detroit Redwings for a new arena to the tune of $283 million after the city declared bankruptcy.
Some have criticized the federal government’s inaction and lack of response to Detroit’s bankruptcy. In 2008, the federal government handed floundering banks hundreds of billions of dollars to avoid total economic collapse. This fact has some politicians questioning the government’s ability to prioritize when it comes to sending aid. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said “For too long lawmakers and regulators have stood aside as cities grapple with budget deficits, unfunded pensions and crumbling infrastructure.”
Kildee is absolutely right. Why is it that large Wall Street banks can get help but cities, where most of the American people live and work, don’t get a dime?
It all goes back to government priority being corporate interests. But politicians are now stepping up for the interests of financially failing municipalities. Along with Kildee, Congressman John Conyers is joining the call for government intervention with the Detroit crisis. Conyers recognizes the importance of sustaining urban and suburban sections in their role of boosting the economy. Conyers explained that “the pressure to privatize is often at odds with the public interest in transparency and the long-term stability of communities.”
“It’s time that we start thinking about the long-term sustainability and funding mechanism for cities and suburban areas that are the powerhouse engines of our economy,” added Kildee.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.