Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Snyder’s Coup

by MIKE WHITNEY

“The democratic rights of Detroit’s citizens are being trampled to protect the interests of Snyder’s wealthy CEO friends and their lobbyists.”

— Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair

Far-right Governor Rick Snyder has ignored Michigan voters and installed Washington DC attorney Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s emergency financial manager (EFM), a position that will give Orr sweeping powers to tear up labor contracts, slash pensions, cut public services, and privatize city-owned assets. From March 28–the date when Public Act 436 kicks in –Orr will make the decisions that would normally be decided by elected officials, primarily the mayor and the city council. In other words, Detroit will become the first city in the US to have its democratically-elected government replaced by a financial dictator.

According to Firedog Lake’s Lindsay Beyerstein, Detroit’s emergency manager will have “virtually unlimited power to reorganize every aspect of city business, including dissolving the city entirely. The emergency manager even has the power to terminate collective bargaining agreements.” (Firedog Lake)

The elites who support this blatant evisceration of the democratic process, are confident that Orr will serve the needs of their primary constituents; businessmen, Wall Street speculators and bondholders. Accordingly, Detroit’s red ink will be shunted onto working people via pay cuts, high unemployment, and reduced social services even though they are in no way responsible for Detroit’s $300 million budget deficits. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the NYT:

“Despite Mr. Orr’s legal background, he said he hoped the city would not ultimately need to file for bankruptcy. Municipal bankruptcies are rare, but it was lost on no one that the state had selected an expert in bankruptcy law for Detroit, as opposed to a financial accountant, former city manager or elected official.

Under Michigan law, a city can file for bankruptcy only under certain conditions, including if an emergency manager has attempted other measures and concluded that such a move is needed.” (“Bankruptcy Lawyer Is Named to Manage an Ailing Detroit”, New York Times)

Orr will avoid bankruptcy at all cost, mainly because bankruptcy would mean losses for banks and bondholders which is a big no-no. Instead, he will balance the budget on the backs of teachers, firefighters and other public employees who will either get their pink slips or see their weekly paychecks shrivel to paupers wages. Elites in the Eurozone followed the same basic script when they installed their “technocrats” in Athens and Rome in the early rounds of the EU debt crisis. These faux prime ministers excuted a well-rehearsed looting operation that thrust the continent into severe recession. Orr will follow the same strategy; crushing the unions, reducing elderly pensioners to destitution, and auctioning off valuable city assets at firesale prices, all under the banner of austerity. According to SEP presidential candidate Jerry White:

“Orr is threatening to carry out a “managed bankruptcy” of Detroit to extract unprecedented concessions from city workers. “I am hopeful to engage in fruitful and productive discussions without the need to resort to bankruptcy,” Orr said last Thursday, adding that, “One thing everybody needs to know, if you go into bankruptcy, Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code is weighted toward the municipality.”

In other words, if the unions prove unable to force city workers to accept savage wage and benefit cuts, then the bankruptcy court will impose this and much more on workers, retirees and city residents. “I don’t want to pull that cudgel out unless I have to,” Orr said. “I’d prefer to pursue a consensual resolution…Don’t make me go to bankruptcy court. You won’t enjoy it.” (“The managed bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler: A model for the assault on Detroit”, Jerry White, World Socialist Web Site)

Wall Street and the media have been overwhelmingly supportive of Snyder’s move to suspend democracy in the name of fiscal consolidation. S&P credit analyst Jane Hudson Ridley summed it up like this, “The appointment of an EM allows the city to move forward in a more efficient manner.” Indeed, financial elites don’t really care whether the appearance of democracy is maintained or not. What matters is the continued upward distribution of wealth. To that end, Orr’s task is to make sure that the losses are assigned to those who can least afford the cost, working people.

Snyder’s coup d’etat in Detroit is a test-case for a more ambitious plan to install Wall Street’s proconsuls in struggling cities across the country. If Orr is able achieve his objectives in Motor City, then the same strategy will be applied elsewhere.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

 

 

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]