Detroit: Test Case for American Democracy

Detroit in bankruptcy is a test case for American democracy: do Americans have a government for the people or a government for the rich?

Fox News has already rushed out a report on the theme that it is all the fault “of Detroit.” If that is intended to imply that the city’s officials should be on trial for mismanagement of their city, fine and good: the present and past officials of the city, the rich surrounding suburbs that used the city but refused to help fund it, and the state should certainly be called to account in no uncertain terms and made to justify in public their past policies. But that was not the tone of FOX’s diatribe against “Detroit.” If the intent was to imply that somehow the population of Detroit is deserves to be punished for staying  behind as everyone else fled to greener pastures, that would not just be blaming the victims but blaming the loyal ones, the city patriots.

Detroit is now Case #1 for the trial of American democracy: does the U.S. possess a system of governance that protects the people and makes officials take responsibility for their actions or a system designed to coddle the rich and impoverish the weak? Will, for example, services be cut? Will pension contracts be violated? Will the guilty officials remain in office? Will everyone pretend that the residents and officials of the suburbs owe their central city nothing? Who will be protected – teachers, police, retirees, children…or the big banks?

The very sloppy writing of the Fox News report should be avoided by responsible journalists. Perhaps all U.S. cities are, by the nature of the irresponsible foreign policy and financial policy of the elite over the past decade, condemned to fail. Or, perhaps Detroit officials did something immoral, idiotic, or fraudulent that makes Detroit a special case. We need to find out. But sly innuendo only gives the impression that the authors have a private agenda. Is there a desire in certain quarters to get rich by impoverishing the American population…by doing to Americans what was done to Mexicans during the Peso Crisis, to Chileans under Pinochet, U.S. homeowners in 2008?

The bankruptcy is obviously not the fault of “Detroit.” Detroit is not a bunch of officials. Detroit is 700,000 people. The school children, the workers, the unemployed who looked for work or volunteered or cared for relatives at home did not commit a crime, they did not commit fraud. They are the ones who tried, and the responsibility of the U.S. system of governance—the responsibility of public officials—is now to determine where the responsibility lies and to protect those victims. Failure will constitute very convincing evidence of a class war intended to turn the U.S. into a third world country.

Watch the resolution of the Detroit bankruptcy crisis carefully. It is the canary in the mine of American democracy. It will tell our future.

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