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Saving Detroit is a Step towards Saving America.

National Nurses United, 7/26/13

Saving Detroit is a Step towards Saving America. Writing in Huffington Post, Richard Eskow makes a convincing and impassioned argument for Detroit pensioners, many of whom are threatened by that city’s prospective bankruptcy.  “The Federal government should bail out Detroit city worker's pensions so that retirees can be paid in full,” wrote Eskow.  “[M]orally and practically, there's no reason why a rescue … - or a Federal guarantee behind the city's pension plan - shouldn't be on the table…. It wouldn't be a bailout. It would be an investment.”  

But will the forces of “Too-Big-to-Fail” America extend the same courtesy to working-class retirees?

Detroit is run today by a corporate overseer. Eskow points out that the law which created that position, doing-in Detroit's self-governance, was the product of a campaign carried out by ALEC and funders like the Koch Brothers.  “Its purpose,” wrote Eskow, “is to reconfigure our democracy and our economy so that they serve the wealthy and powerful even more efficiently.”

The retirement security of working Americans - especially union pensions, Social Security, and Medicare -  is a very high-profile target of corporate America, what Eskow terms ‘the austerity crowd… designed to break the public’s belief in the social contract.”  The bankruptcy filing in Detroit, which targets that city's union pensions, is “part of this broader agenda,” said Eskow.   Detroit will be the first, of many, he argues, unless the city and its workers are defended.

The city of 700,000 -- once it was 2 million -- is over 80 percent African-American and a Mecca of black culture.

The fifth anniversary of the financial crisis will be marked in September and we should all be reminded that Wall Street traders and the executives who set their agendas triggered the collapse, not the pensioners who counted on an honest deal.  Wall Street continues to make out-sized profits and avoid responsibility for its dirty dealings, as the financial fallout goes unabated.

Among those not facing losses: banks and other investment groups holding Detroit bonds.  “Many of their investments are insured,” reported Eskow.  

 “If Detroit fails it will hurt our nation as a whole. It will send a message to minority and urban youth that their futures are as hopeless as they seem and the country doesn't care. It will add to a national atmosphere of hopelessness and decay. And we will have missed an opportunity to turn the tide for America's cities.”

Speaking of urban and minority…. “Should Jobless Black Youth Apply for EU Membership?” asked Carl Bloice in his column this week.. “African Americans ages 18-29 face an unemployment rate of 23.7 percent,” wrote Bloice.  “During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the jobless rate peaked at 25.4 percent.” 

Congressman Elijah Cummings, who is 62 years old, represents urban Baltimore.  His district is 60 percent African-American, a place where abandoned houses are boarded up, “block upon block,” as described in a Huffington Post report.  “The congressman lives on one such block. Schools and other public institutions are under crushing financial pressure.  Poverty, joblessness and incarceration: all rampant, and in many cases worsened in recent years of recession.”  Unemployment in Cummings’ district is 40 percent.

“Black poverty rates were cut in half from the start of the 1960s (when they were over 50 percent) to the year 2000,” the story detailed, “but have mostly been inching upwards since. In absolute terms, more blacks are in poverty than ever -- more than one in four of the nation's 44 million African-American citizens. More than one in three black children live in poverty, a percentage that rises to well over 50 percent in cities such as Detroit.” 

Meanwhile, the gilded revolving door goes round and round.  Lawyer Robert S. Khuzami was termed “Wall Street’s top federal enforcer,” as a result of a top-level job at the Securities and Exchange Commission he reached after 17 years of government service.   He’s leaving the S.E.C. for a corporate law firm, where his starting salary was  reported by the New York Times this week  to be $5 million a year. 

“In doing so,” wrote the Times, “he is following the quintessential Washington script: an influential government insider becoming a paid advocate for industries he once policed…. Mr. Khuzami will represent some of the same corporations that the S.E.C. oversees.”

In his new position, Khuzami will work alongside a former federal judge and United States deputy attorney general, who spearheaded BP’s defense in the government investigation of the Gulf oil spill.

Critics say this revolving door is common at the S.E.C. and undermines the agency’s independence and “links it inextricably to Wall Street,” wrote the Times.

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