Archive for June 28th, 2014

by lizard

There is a water crisis, accompanied by an appeal to the UN, that one would normally expect to see in a developing country in Latin America or Africa. But this is Detroit:

When the United Nations reaches out to resolve a water or sanitation crisis, it is largely across urban slums and remote villages in Asia, Africa or Latin America and the Caribbean.

But a severe water crisis in the financially bankrupt city of Detroit in the U.S. state of Michigan has prompted several non-governmental organisations and activists to appeal for U.N. intervention in one of the world’s richest countries.

“This is unprecedented,” said Maude Barlow, founder of the Blue Planet Project, a group that advocates water as a human right.

“I visited the city and worked with the Detroit People’s Water Board several weeks ago and came away terribly upset,” she told IPS.

She pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly African Americans, are having their water ruthlessly turned off.

Families with children, the elderly and the sick, cannot bathe, flush their toilets or cook in their own homes, she added.

“This is the worst violation of the human right to water I have ever seen outside of the worst slums in the poorest countries in failed states of the global South,” said Barlow, a one-time senior advisor on water to a former President of the U.N. General Assembly.

Unbelievable, but not unexpected in a state that passed an anti-democratic emergency management law bestowing king-like power to whatever technocrat is appointed to municipalities in crisis. This law was passed in lieu of actually understanding what’s going on (hint: class war). From the link:

Public Act 4 is anti-democratic. It is unconstitutional. It is bad policy — it doesn’t work. However, its real danger is the way it creates a debilitating body politic. The idea that an emergency manager — a hero can come into a community and singlehandedly solve all the problems is dangerous in two key ways. First, it is a devious political and social deception. Second, it destroys the faith Americans traditionally have in democratic government.

Governor Snyder says he wants to help Detroit. The mainstream media is using its force to paint a horrifying portrait of Detroit. The image is familiar. It includes a shrinking population, incompetent political leadership and a growing and apathetic underclass. This is not an accurate picture. While Detroit has lost population, there is no mention of the role of bank and tax foreclosure to speed the rapid population decline. There is no talk of the high cost of insurance in the city, the lack of major retail and the 200 million or more spent outside of the city for groceries. There is a lot of talk about violence, but no talk about the seeming economic development embargo on the city of Detroit. The emergency manager is supposed to a hero. After receiving training by the Snyder administration, s/he will come in and do what no elected official and collective community action can — save Detroit. This is a destructive fiction. The Detroit Public School system, the City of Highland Park and the City of Benton Harbor prove that emergency managers are not miracle workers or supernatural saviors. Detroit doesn’t need an emergency manager. Detroit needs emergency reconstruction. We don’t need a consultant. We need community and civic engagement. It will take elected officials, labor, pastors, parents and citizens at large to turn this ship around before it collides into the impending iceberg of increasing decline.

The wealthy in this country are getting nervous, and they should be. At some point, and without warning, a catalyzing event could provide the spark to wider class conflagration. There are some within the upper echelons that know this, and Nick Hanauer is one of them:

Though Charles and David Koch may be grabbing the headlines promoting a 1% neo-feudal agenda, not everyone in the upper echelons of the American plutocracy is on board. Nick Hanauer, a super rich venture capitalist, recently wrote a piece condemning neoliberalism – often called “trickle-down economics” – saying the current economic system is not only unfair and causing resentment but counter-productive to a thriving middle class saying “These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base.”

Hanauer also offered a warning to his fellow 1%ers – The Pitchforks Are Coming.

Hanauer believes the commercial oligarchy that owns and operates America is living in a fantasy world when they think revolution can not happen in the US, telling his fellow plutocrats “I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction. Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world.”

Yep. Here is an excerpt from Hanauer’s op-ed:

What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.

That last line is curious. Why is it going to be especially terrible for the wealthy? If I had to hazard a guess, it would be this: they have been insulated from reality for so long that when the consequences of the self-destructive financial system that’s created misery for the under-classes for decades finally reaches their gated communities it will be quite traumatizing.

And here’s what I have to say about that: you reap what you sow.

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