The writer Masaccio has a terrific piece at FDL talking about how capital accumulation by the very rich has been enshrined as the Only Goal of government. He makes a good case, and then he plays out the consequences, which we are seeing in the bankruptcy of the city of Detroit.
For example (one of several; my emphasis and some reparagraphing throughout):
In the same way, states and cities have turned over their prisons to private companies. Again, the goal of these corporations is to maximize profits at any price, including the health and safety of prison inmates. Since I live in Chicago, I am duty bound to mention the outrageous parking meter deal, and the stupid Indiana Toll Road deal.
In each of these situations, we as citizens bought and built things for our mutual benefit. Some rancid government types in thrall to the idea that the market should do everything decided that we shouldn’t own things as a community, and sold them to some private company.
That means that instead of getting things at a reasonable price, paying for them with tax revenues and user fees, and owning important assets and services ourselves, we are getting screwed over by a bunch of rich people and their minions devoted to taking as much of our money as they can for themselves.
Which gets us to Detroit, the point I want to make here.
Detroit was forced to default so the rich could steal their stuff
You read that heading right. The writer Masaccio again:
One big reason governments are selling public assets to the rich is to raise money to pay on government debts. Governments have debts because they borrowed from the rich instead of taxing them. That, of course, is the real scandal. But the rich want you to think it’s your fault so you should pay, or forfeit all that juicy public property.
Detroit is the poster child for the future. The rich and their minions on Wall Street are circling the city, planning to buy up the assets that belong to the community at fire sale prices.
Let’s start with the city’s art collection. The rich, especially the Wall Street rich, love art. Masaccio quotes a Financial Times article (subscription required) that, as he says, “strikes just the right note”:
The state attorney-general has opined that [the Art Collection is] “held in public trust for the benefit of the city’s residents”. But some creditors and their counsel say it is ludicrous that they are recovering only a small fraction of the money they are owed while the city is sitting on such valuable items.
Of course, where does that art collection go, when it’s sold? To the people who forced its sale, of course. Among them, Wall Street and its denizens. Back to Masaccio:
Among those valuable items are a wonderful collection of art works, and we know how much Wall Streeters love that art. Steve Cohen of SAC, the recently indicted hedge fund, just paid casino billionaire Stephen Wynn $155 million for Picasso’s Le Rêve, widely perceived as a poke in the eye of the wimpy SEC.
There’s no telling how much the creepy Walton heirs would pay so they could move it to the bustling metropolis of Bentonville, AR for their Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
How perfect an example is that? Just watch that art collection, folks. Watch where it ends up. By their thefts will you know them.
Is your city black, and sitting on public treasure? This will be you. Is your city white, and sitting on public treasure. They have their eye on it. (By the way, $155 million is billionaire chump change. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post with pocket lint.)
What do you call it when everyone but you is poor, and everything is for sale?
Predators call it Mission Accomplished. The fact that the world is sold to you cheap is not a by-product; it’s the point.
Here’s a secret — prostitution was rampant in Victorian England, and a great many males with good incomes participated, perhaps most of them. All it took was a couple of shillings to turn a low-wage shop girl (they were all low-wage), a low-wage housemaid (they were all low-wage) or the daughter of a dirt-poor family into someone who could make a little on the side without changing professions, formally. And many, perhaps most, of the poor did just that. The distinction between street-walkers (“gay” women) and the working poor who turned the occasional minutes into a needed shilling was very blurry. And every male who wanted to, enjoyed the rewards.
When people are dirt poor, many will sell their mothers and daughters to survive. When town are poor, many will (be forced by Our Betters to) sell their art treasures, their parks, their water companies, their public roads, to survive.
The writer Masaccio again:
The Financial Times points to Belle Island, a logical site for development by the rich as a playground carefully isolated from the misery of the city; the water and sewage system; 22 square miles of Detroit, mostly blighted; nine parking garages, two parking lots and a bunch of parking meters; and half of an aging cross-border tunnel to Windsor, Ontario. More generally, the private sector is looking for roads, bridges, airports, utilities and hospitals.
Do read the rest; it’s excellent.
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