The rape of Detroit: City was forced to default so rich could profit

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:

Picasso's Le Rêve, sold by billionaire Steve Wynn to billionaire Steve Cohen for $155 million.

Picasso’s Le Rêve, sold by billionaire Steve Wynn to billionaire Steve Cohen for $155 million.

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.

metropolis_children_metropolis_SMALLER_TRIMMEDHere’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.

The Rape of Detroit — coming to a city near you. We may have to throw our bodies into this machine to stop it (which is perhaps where the NSA comes in).

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • Irva Green

    It is very obvious that only rich people gets richer, and the poor gets poorer.
    ______________________________________________________________

    learn english

  • lilyannerose

    I was born in Detroit attended Wayne State University within Detroit and ever since the riots, to the best of my recall in 1967 Detroit has been on a steady decline. When I go back to visit family it’s so sad to see what has occurred to what should have been a true metropolitan area. The old architecture in Detroit is stunning. Beautiful buildings and churches wonderful old houses within a City which was allowed to just rot. Now so many houses torn down that there are consecutive streets where all the homes have been bulldozed down. It was frightening on several level to view people who have nothing and no hope go through the motions of their bleak lives. For a good 20 to 25-years I felt that the federal government should have been called out for what they stood back and watch happen. Following the first tier of the downward slide brought on by the riots of 1967 there was the devastating HUD scandal when homes were downgraded and sold for half their value to real estate corporations who envisioned massive profits at some point and did they ever make a mistake. It was a surprise when HUD moved their regional office to Detroit which was nothing more than creating the infrastructure to enrich the HUD lawyers and management team who picked up a lot of cash for the real estate scam. I obviously still carry a lot of sentiment for Detroit and I know I’m not alone!

  • Number Six

    Well, think about it: HE hasn’t had any for over two thousand years. Heck, I’d be cranky too!
    :)

  • Monoceros Forth

    It’s one of the great unexamined and implicitly accepted axioms of American politics that a private company will always–always!–administer things better and more efficiently than a government body. That is, for example, one of the basic, unproven assumptions about plans to “reform” public education by siphoning money off into school vouchers or charter schools. The question of whether private or charter schools are actually any good at what they do goes unexamined; it seems to be assumed right from the start that of course they’re better.

  • Bill_Perdue

    I am correct but as for the timing, things will move at their own pace. I always think that pace is too slow. We’re alike in that.

  • cole3244

    i hope you’re correct but i see no reason to be optimistic, but i’m certainly open to things changing for the better and time is of the essence.

  • Bill_Perdue

    I’m using marxist definitions and you’re using poly-sci definitions. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for anyone who’s a Democrat or Republicans.

    They’re Whigs, dinosaurs, losers. They’re on their way out. In Seattle a pro-
    GLBT candidate for city council from a very small socialist group won 35% of the vote and forced the Democrat right winger into a run off.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Given the various remarks purportedly ‘from God’ on the subjects of slavery and genocide, he certainly seems to be a bloodthirsty and temperamental SOB.

  • emjayay

    Matthew 25:29

    For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

    Or Luke 8:18

    Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.

    See, just as God predicted all those years ago, twice. (King James version, because that is how God actually talks).

  • cole3244

    my definition of liberal is left of center but in todays climate almost every pol is right of center.
    liberal is a dirty word and people only use progressive to describe themselves which is cowardice by definition.
    the center has been moved so far to the right there is no left anymore, the light at the end of the tunnel has been extinguished at least for the foreseeable future.

  • emjayay

    I have never understood handing toll highways over to corporations or having private prisons (now there’s a huge conflict of interest – normal prisons don’t pay lobbyists to get laws toughened and elect right wing Republicans so they have more customers) or any of that. I don’t have any arguement with any of the stuff in this important article.
    But when it comes to the disaster area of something like Detroit, while not unrelated there’s rather a lot – Britishism for totally,entirely, vastly – more to the story, although it’s essentially about letting capitalism do whatever it wants and letting the chips fall where they may. You know, the American Way. I think Michael Moore had a bit to say, though by no means everything, about the topic waaay back in 1989.

  • Bill_Perdue

    They are classic liberals and liberals are right wing, Anyone who supports capitalist property relations is right wing.

  • cole3244

    if the czars weren’t safe then no elite is safe no matter the circumstance.

  • cole3244

    carter, clintons, nor obama are liberals and that is the problem with america today people think they are.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    There will always be rapers/pillagers, whether they be mongol hoards or 1%ers. The challenge of a civilized society is to keep them in check. We’ve failed.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    From individuals to students to home owners to municipal and city governments, what we’re seeing is systematic plundering of the 99% by the Plutocratic Bastard Class by way of forced bankruptcy and outright asset seizure.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The rich can be defeated by the emergent union left, the growth of the political left and by groups promoting independent political action. The key to that equation is to abandon the liberals and the Democrats.

  • Bill_Perdue

    1) No one from the left, Democrats are not part of the left, will be elected because election laws in the US are undemocratic, from the Electoral College to exclusionary federal and state laws meant to keep parties of leftists, unionists and people of color off the ballot. The US is a banana republic.

    2) Carter began the attack on the standard of living of working people. He deregulated S&L’s, transportation and communications, wiping out hundreds of thousands of union jobs.

    Orlando Sentinel 05 25 1986 “The Jan. 1, 1984, breakup of the giant Bell System shrunk what had been the world’s largest telephone monopoly to one-third its previous size. AT&T was sent spinning into a world of non-union competitors and cheap imports…. Bearing the brunt of that cost-cutting has been the CWA, which represents 155,000 AT&T workers. Since 1983, the company has reduced its non-management work force by 42,000 through
    layoffs, attrition and early retirement.”

    Railway Age (a management magazine) http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/blog/Page-3.html Jimmy Carter, on signing the Staggers Act: “By stripping away needless and costly regulation in favor of marketplace forces wherever possible, this act will help assure a strong and healthy future for our nation’s railroads and the men and women who work for them…”

    Mac Fleming, President, Brotherhood Of Maintenance Of Way Employees” The railroads used the Staggers Act to massively cut jobs throughout the industry, shamelessly shedding thousands upon thousands of miles of track, creating short lines that were thinly disguised creations of the big roads at that time. http://www.bmwe.org/journal/2001/05may/C2.htm

    Liberals like Carter, the Clintons and Obama are the worst enemies or working people and unions because they can get away with more. That’s why they’re used for things like NAFTA, deregulation and the greatest fraud in human history, the Obama’s administrations gift of over $7.7 trillion ($7,700,000,000,000.00) to the banksters, who stashed it gain interest.

  • PeteWa

    What’s happening currently in Detroit reminds me greatly of how Julian Rubinstein broke down what the corporatists did to Budapest in The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber following the fall of the Soviet Union.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    With Democracy non-existent in Michigan, leaving only one person left to blame for all failures: the governor. And he’s decided that his best course of action is for him to take a giant, steaming dump on his state.

  • nicho

    The only problem is that the 1% is prepared for the violence. At the street level, they already have their private armies and they’ve done away with posse comitatus, so they can use the armed forces to put down the unrest.

    At a more devious level, they’ve driven thousands of wedges between the citizens most affected. So the Teabagger army will blame Mexicans. The Second Amendment vigilantes will blame blacks, gays (ref: Russia). And so on. And they will be encouraged in that infighting by the corporatist media.

    Meanwhile, the 1% will be hiding in their armed, gated communities or bugging out in their private jets.

  • cole3244

    the 1% are pushing the envelope and if they continue to push past the point of nothing too lose violence will erupt.

    you can only push people of any stripe so far and then, well you can see it on the streets of other countries already and it will get to our shores eventually unless someone from the left is elected to a position of real substance and power.
    i want to extend my personal apology to pres jimmy carter for the horrible mistake america made in 1980, you were right mr pres & america was so wrong.

  • iamlegion

    The wealthy are treating cities, communities, and even the entire country like just another company – push it into bankruptcy and buy its assets. Run it out of town like another competitor.

    We used to have a wealthy class that was interested in building up America. But this generation of plutocrats is composed entirely of rent-seeking parasites.

  • nicho

    Too bad someone didn’t warn us they were going to do this. Oh, wait! That’s right. Greg Palast did in 2002 — taking us through the plan, step by step. People ignored him.

    Meanwhile, unsealed court documents just revealed that the banks have stolen trillions of dollars worth of homes.

    http://boingboing.net/2013/08/12/unsealed-court-settlement-docu.html

    I’m sure Holder will be on that — as soon as he’s finished attacking legal marijuana clinics.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    I wish I could say I was surprised.

  • Indigo

    You could see it coming back in the late 1970s but the Powers-That-Be were successful at managing the discussion that was happening. Dr. King was perfectly clear about the riots, they were not race riots as the discussion mangers would have it but class riots, the rich vs the poor. The poor lost. Some of us see it now but the seeds were planted years ago. The real problem is that even now, the race riot meme is the dominant one. We’ll never get traction until we get past that misleading racist nonsense.

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