Detroit's bankruptcy problem rooted in capitalism

uaw stop corporate greed

DETROIT - It is the "culmination of sixty years of downward decline," said Republican Governor Rick Snyder at the press conference today announcing Detroit's filing for bankruptcy. The 60-year part I agree with but the blame for that decline, and solutions Snyder and his appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr proposed in today's press conference, left key players in that decline blameless.

Snyder said Detroit's "political class" is the last major obstacle to righting this city. He echoes Republican and Tea Party claims the Democratic Party (that has long governed the city) along with the city's labor unions bear the onus for the current situation.

Many criticisms of the city harbor a large unhealthy dose of racism that implies the city's main problem is a large minority population expecting government handouts.

Talk about living on the public trough. Exxon Mobil made $45 billion in profits in 2009 but paid zero in taxes. General Electric made $10.3 billion and received a $1.1billion dollar rebate; Wells Fargo had profits of $19 billion and received tax credits of $19 billion after the purchase of Wachovia Bank. The bank-caused, tax loss inducing foreclosure crisis resulted in a huge loss of tax base and population for the city. One could go on and on but those lost tax dollars could end Detroit's and other municipalities' problems once and for all.

It is no surprise Detroit has a financial problem. It is a one-industry city that went from twelve auto plants to one. Globalization, automation and the seeking of ever greater profits caused all auto companies, domestic and foreign, to move production. All contributed to Detroit losing almost 90 percent of its jobs and tax base. No city could survive such a loss.

If there is a political class to blame for corruption or dysfunction, Snyder should look no further than his own Republican Party and its endless list of extremist, authoritarian actions and anti-democratic policies.

Today, Emergency Manager Orr said "we can't kick the can down the road any further."

I agree with those words, but not Orr's intent. Instead of trying to reign in pensions and public spending, we should rein in corporate profiteering and tax evasion. The capitalist system, based on profits before people, has accumulated huge riches from the labor of people, Detroit's workers in the first place.

It is right to expect all elected officials to act in the public's interest. But the main problem facing Detroit, other urban, suburban and rural areas is not corruption or labor unions seeking decent wages and benefits.

The main problem we face as a nation is not a lack of money; it is too much money in too few hands. Growing inequality, not budget deficits, are the country's number one problem. Until that problem is solved, others will not go away.

Photo: United Autoworkers members protest extreme wealth gap and corporate greed. (PW/John Rummel)