If you want to know what it feels like to be Greek or Italian right now, you might consider moving to Detroit. Elected governments in both Greece and Italy were forced to step aside under EU pressure to put ‘technocrats’ in power. The same fate could be in store for the Motor City soon — with the story complicated by the politics of race.The city of Henry Ford continues on its road to nowhere. Elected officials don’t want to make savage cuts in pay and benefits for some city workers while firing many others — for understandable reasons both political and humane. On the other hand, there isn’t any money and neither the state nor the feds will bail Detroit out.Mayor Bing says that renegotiation of union contracts are moving forward as planned, but the threat that the governor in Lansing will appoint an emergency manager still looms large. Already, Black leaders are beginning to set up the barricades. The WaPo has the story:
Detroit owes bondholders, retirees, and other debtors more than $14.1 billion, according to a report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.
The state law allows emergency managers to sell off city assets, restructure debt and break union contracts. But the managers also usurp the powers of local elected officials.
“It is the civil rights issue of our time. I didn’t vote for an emergency manager. I voted for a mayor. I did not give up my right to vote on the whims and fancies of a law that we believe is unconstitutional and immoral,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, pastor of Fellowship Chapel and a civil rights activist in Detroit. “We view it as another step in the direction of voter suppression and vote oppression.”
Detroit is Ground Zero for the breakdown of the Blue Social Model. The city built on Fordism (mass production, mass manufacturing, strong government, lifetime employment, unionization) has fallen on hard times with the end of the Fordist era.Via Meadia hopes that Detroit can rise above these challenges without losing its local autonomy, but if the city is unable to renegotiate its public services and restore confidence in its ability to meet its financial obligations, an emergency manager won’t be nearly enough to set the city right.The race issue is a red herring when it comes to Detroit. Detroit isn’t broke because it has an African American majority; it is broke because for decades its politicians have spent more money than they had, and because Detroit never figured out how to reinvent itself as it lost its industrial core. (Pittsburgh and Chicago are two rust belt cities that have been much more successful than Detroit. Atlanta has done much better under African American leadership than Detroit.) The state government and the feds aren’t refusing to bail it out because so many Detroiters are African American. The state doesn’t have the money to bail it out, and the GOP nationally believes that bailouts enable bad behavior rather than changing it. There is no support for bailouts in predominantly non-Black jurisdictions like New York state and California.Detroit did everything it could to cling to the blue social model long after conditions made that model unsustainable. What Detroit needs is for new indigenous leadership to rise in both the private and the public sectors that can help the city reinvent itself as a 21st century, post-blue metropolis. Via Meadia hopes philanthropists and others will focus on helping that leadership develop and emerge. America — and Detroit — led the world into Fordist mass prosperity and the blue social model in the 20th century. In the 21st century, we must lead the world to a new and higher stage.