Jan 20, 2020
The impeachment drama in Washington, for many, is riveting. A TV production, a spy movie with underworld characters who tell “true” stories about Bad Guys, complete with back stories from exotic places like Kiev, Ukraine and Russia.
If you are a Trump supporter, you watch the “other” TV station and get to see the daily Apprentice show combined with Bad Billy, “I-shot-the-sheriff” routines at election rallies.
Then there are the Super Heroes, the Democrats, in procession to serve the charges of impeachment. Pomp and Circumstance like the British Royal Family (exit Megxit) with the Senate ducks in a row. Republicans swearing to be impartial and unbiased in the trial (how corny is that)?
The entire new year will be filled with these same performances.
Does it take all this excitement to prove that Trump is corrupt? Hell no. So what is up with the daily high drama?
The chances that Trump will be forced out by impeachment are slim. It is clear that the Democrats don’t expect it or even think it possible. Their best-case scenario in any event is to replace Trump with Pence (notice how they didn’t move to impeach him), a man equally or more reactionary than Trump, a man clearly up to his neck in the current scandal.
So how can any of this correct the pressing problems the working class is facing today?
What will it mean to accept this level of theft, gangsterism, political corruption for nine more months, hoping for a new president to be elected (really eleven months before a new president is seated)?
One more year of global warming? Of stock market gouging by the big bourgeois in spite of crash warnings? Past tipping point.
One more year of threats and counter-threats against other nations. Iran invaded? New wars? Again, way past the tipping point.
This system is broken beyond repair, imposed from above. An imperial machine to keep the working class quiet.
But this is how the two-party system functions. The Administration may be Republican, may be Democratic. But being elected every two to four years leaves politicians unreachable, non-removable by a system created to benefit the wealthy. We might as well have kings and queens.
Workers get up every day, go to work and produce, making the society run, raising children, producing the heat, light, shelter and food and transportation that provide for society.
Buying into the two-party voting process reduces to nothing the role that the workers can and should play.
There is no way within this supposedly democratic “of the people, by the people, and for the people” system for working people to exercise control directly, to affect decisions on war, on spending of public money, on wage rates or prices of goods.
We don’t need the politicians, the lawmakers, the bosses and the bankers! They are parasites living off our labor.
We need a different organization to run the country. We need representatives from our own class, chosen from the workplaces, to represent us in decision-making. These representatives need to be subject to immediate recall.
We need road and infrastructure repair, higher wages and price controls. Good schools for our kids and health care, decent and affordable shelter for our families.
These are the things that representatives from our class would take on.
It is only by building our own working class organizations to fight and to impose what we need, that we will be able to move forward into a better society.
All the rest is a side-show.
Jan 20, 2020
Since December, Puerto Rico has been hit by hundreds of small earthquakes and a few larger ones. Thousands of people have been sleeping outside in fear that their homes will collapse, and the biggest tremor knocked out the island’s largest power plant, throwing Puerto Ricans into the dark ... once again.
These earthquakes come more than two years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving much of the island without electricity for months, and causing at least 2,650 deaths. Most of the deaths were due to the lack of power to refrigerate food and medicine, operate medical equipment, etc. Yet to the extent that the power system was rebuilt at all, it remains extremely frail, overwhelmed by the slightest shock. This situation is a direct consequence of capitalism’s looting of this U.S. colony.
Puerto Rico had already suffered twenty years of economic hardship before Maria. In 1996, the federal government began removing the tax breaks it had given companies to set up shop on the island, and the companies began leaving. Both the Puerto Rican government and the power company got deeper and deeper into debt in order to stay afloat. When the bills came due, Puerto Rico slashed every public service, and the power company cut maintenance spending, all to pay the banks and bondholders.
After Hurricane Maria, recovery spending presented a new juicy target for U.S. capital. Cobra Acquisitions got at least 1.8 billion dollars in contracts to rebuild the power grid, despite having no experience with that work. Subsequently, the feds arrested the company’s former president, along with the FEMA official who led the rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure, and charged them with conspiring to commit bribery and disaster fraud. This came on the heels of Whitefish Energy receiving a $300 million dollar contract to do electrical power grid work it was totally unprepared for, because of its links with Trump’s former Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke.
The reconstruction work the companies did carry out was so shoddy that seven months after the hurricane, a piece of construction equipment tripped a wire and again cut off power to the entire island. Now, the electric company says it might take a year to fix the power plant damaged by the recent earthquake.
In the face of his own administration’s thieving, President Trump used corruption as an excuse to hold up 20 billion dollars in disaster recovery money for more than a year. Finally, on January 15, Trump said he would release 16 billion dollars of that money, but none of it can go to the electrical grid. The power grid’s reconstruction will have to wait for other funding, which may or may not come at all.
Puerto Rico is in the middle of a hurricane zone, next to a tectonic fault line. Hurricanes and earthquakes are predictable and could be prepared for ... if the protection of human life were a priority. Instead, the continued looting of the island continues to be priority number one.
Jan 20, 2020
Two months after a miscarriage, 25-year-old Chelsea Becker of Hancock, in central California, was charged with murder and put behind bars on five million dollars bail. The Kings County District Attorney charged Becker after hospital authorities notified the coroner’s office about the miscarriage, and the coroner found the drug methamphetamine in the stillborn baby.
It’s a pattern that’s repeating itself in Hancock. In 2018, another young woman, Adora Perez, who had had a miscarriage at the same hospital, faced murder charges through collusion between hospital officials and the DA. A judge slammed her with an 11-year prison sentence.
The cases against Perez and Becker are based on a 1970 California law which, ironically, was supposed to protect pregnant women from domestic violence. But such cases against women are often dismissed even before a trial, and for good reason: it simply can’t be proven that a miscarriage is caused by the mother’s use of drugs. A miscarriage can happen for all kinds of reasons, including abdominal trauma, certain infections and even high blood pressure. In fact, because of this, miscarriages are much more common in economically depressed working-class or farming communities like Hancock.
But obviously, these facts do not matter to all those authorities who railroaded Perez to prison: the hospital officials who told on her, the coroner who ruled the miscarriage a “homicide,” the DA who charged her with murder and the judge who gave her a long prison sentence without a trial. Apparently, the same DA is now trying to repeat his “success” in the Perez case, by attacking another young woman who has an addiction.
What’s going on in Hancock is part of an increasing tide of attacks on women across the country, accusing women of “immoral choices,” such as ending a pregnancy or using drugs.
People who claim such moral superiority over others may be a small minority, but politicians and government officials use such backward views to attack working-class communities plagued by poverty, and all the social problems that come with it.
Jan 20, 2020
The 38th state, Virginia, just ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. constitution. This amendment, which originally passed the House and Senate in 1920, says rights will not be abridged on account of sex.
But there is a technical problem: If Congress does not change a rule about how long it can take to pass an amendment, Virginia’s vote will not matter. The Equal Rights Amendment will not be added to the Constitution.
Women earn 80% of what men earn. They are subjected to continual sexual harassment, and are denied the right to control their own bodies through direct attack against health care and the right to abortion.
Do we believe that a great advancement will happen now that a 38th state passed an amendment?
Words are cheap. Equality demands a higher price.
Jan 20, 2020
As many of us were celebrating the arrival of the new decade, Congress was ramping up their attack on women’s right to full healthcare choices. Over 200 members of Congress signed a letter to their wealthy friends on the Supreme Court, stating their desire to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Over the past year, women have had to go into the streets to protect the right to their own bodies. It looks like in 2020, women are going to have to do the same. The massive mobilizations of the 1960s and 1970s, the black movement, the anti-war movement, and the women’s movement, have provided us an example of what it will take to turn back these outrageous attacks.
Reprinted from newsletter at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Detroit, Michigan.
Jan 20, 2020
Recently the Detroit News ran a front page story that the new UAW president, Rory Gamble, was being investigated by the federal government.
The next day, when Gamble denied the specific allegations, the Detroit News ran a small story on the inside, saying there were no charges filed, no evidence, nothing found yet.
Clearly there has been some corruption by some people high up in the union. But it is also very clear that the government and the media, especially the Detroit News, has been trying to build up a case that the whole union is corrupt. Why? So that the government can take over the union, tie its hands, and make it even weaker.
That’s what they did to the Teamsters years ago. This attack on the union is in reality an attack on all the workers who are part of the union.
Reprinted from newsletter at the Ford Rouge plants, Dearborn, Michigan.
Jan 20, 2020
At both the state and federal level, there has been a move to lessen health and safety requirements and environmental restrictions on businesses. Federal watchdog agencies like the EPA and OSHA and state agencies like MOSHA and DEQ, now EGLE, in Michigan, have been under business pressure. Weaker policies and weaker policing has been pushed by big business and the rich, with the goal of making more money by having to spend less on health and safety.
The result for citizens has been incidents like the Flint water crisis, and PFAS. Now there is the “green ooze” in Madison Heights. Businesses have almost literally been getting away with murder. If not murder, then certainly sickening our residents. When these incidents occur, the news media says, “How did this happen?”
The people who work for these agencies on the front line want to do a good job and protect Michigan citizens, but they are being held back.
Reprinted from newsletter at the State of Michigan offices, in Detroit, Michigan.
Jan 20, 2020
For most of us, Social Security taxes are deducted from each of our pay checks, all year long. But in fact, Social Security taxes are only taken out of the first $137,700 of a person’s annual income. If you make more than that, you don’t have to pay Social Security on it.
And about 200 people in the U.S. reached that amount on the first DAY of 2020! Yes, while most of them were still nursing their New Year’s hangovers, these ultra-wealthy people had ALREADY raked in over $137,700 each.
Most of us who work and actually produce wealth won’t see half of that much—all year!
Jan 20, 2020
The impeachment proceedings against President Trump have thrown a spotlight on U.S. military aid to Ukraine, which has been engulfed in a civil war with forces backed by Russia for the last five years. Both Democrats and Republicans claim that this war is meant to stop “Russian aggression.” But the war is being encouraged by U.S. imperialism. In its effort to expand its influence and reach into the heart of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. has been using Ukraine as a proxy, a pawn against Russia.
Ukraine was created after the former Soviet Union broke apart in 1991. Before that, Ukraine and Russia were part of the same country. And they had very deep ties. Russians and Ukrainians had a shared history that goes back centuries. This shared history includes the Russian Revolution of 1917, when the working class throughout that vast territory took power and built the first workers’ state. Their populations are also joined in millions of other ways, including through intermarriage. Their economies were also joined. Ukraine is rich in natural resources, including gas and coal. Its agriculture is so vast, it is often referred to as the bread basket of Europe. But all this functioned as a part of a whole economy that was tied to Russia.
When the former Soviet Union went to pieces in 1991, the middle classes of Ukraine had huge illusions that independence would open Ukraine up to what they saw as the prosperity and plenty of the West, especially of the U.S. But breaking the ties with the rest of the Soviet Union, especially Russia, led to disorganized production and to a sharp decline. This decline was made much worse by the plundering of the economy and the government by bureaucrats-turned-business people and oligarchs. On top of that, Ukraine was subject to the capitalist economic crises that hit the working population in the rest of Eastern Europe especially hard. Living standards for the vast majority of the population began to plunge.
In the midst of this decline, U.S. officials and their allies held out the promise of aid and investment. But these were usually just payoffs to friendly flunkies and oligarchs—in order to impose supposed “reforms,” that is, attacks on the working population for the benefit of the rich. U.S. officials helped draft Ukraine’s privatization laws. U.S. officials forced Ukraine to cut social spending, increase gas prices and push through highly unpopular taxes.
Ukraine shares a long common border with Russia. There is also a large Russian minority inside the country, especially in the heavily industrial eastern part of the republic, as well as in the Crimean Peninsula, the home of the Russian naval fleet on the Black Sea. So, the U.S. tried to tilt the balance in its favor by funneling endless amounts of cash to support politicians friendly to the U.S. who oppose Russia. The U.S. government bankrolled non-government organizations (NGO’s) and media channels to whip up Ukrainian nationalist sentiments against Russian people. U.S. authorities also provided weapons and military training to openly racist, fascist and neo-Nazi parties and their militias.
In 2013–14, in the midst of this anti-Russian hysteria, U.S. officials began to fast-track Ukraine into NATO. The U.S. had formed NATO after World War II as a military alliance to oppose the old Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the U.S. began to use NATO to oppose Russia, the biggest of the republics that had emerged from the old Soviet Union. The U.S. expanded NATO into the countries that border on Russia, including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. This enabled the U.S. military to position heavily armed U.S. troops under the cover of NATO right near the border of Russia.
In 2014, Russia responded to these moves by the U.S. and its allies by occupying Odessa. Of course, Putin didn’t do this in order to protect the Russian minority, but to safeguard Odessa as a Russian military base and to pose as the champion of the Russian people, thus boosting Russian ultra-nationalism and chauvinism.
Putin then organized the secession of Donbass, a heavily industrial province, from the rest of Ukraine. This provoked a big civil war, in which the Ukrainian people, along with the Russian minority, are merely cannon fodder for both sides. Over the last five years, 13,000 people have been killed, including both civilians and military troops. And there have been hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Thus, U.S. intervention in Ukraine has been nothing short of disaster. It has helped turn this highly-educated, resource-rich country—once home to the most advanced Soviet industry—into the poorest country in Europe. It’s a place where many can barely afford to buy food, and where the extreme-right wing and neo-Nazis are growing in influence and power.
Jan 20, 2020
Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.
Australia is not a third world country. It has all the material, financial, technological, and human resources needed to effectively fight the fire disaster which could have been predicted. Australia is a quasi-continent and its government’s wealth is measured in billions.
Australia is one of the countries with the highest risk of fire in the world, but it is sorely lacking in modern means of detection and protocol to deal with fire hazards. It’s not for a lack of resources. The Australian Navy has no imminent danger of invasion to fight. Nonetheless, it bought billions of dollars of new equipment from France. How many hundreds of amphibious airplanes, how many thousands of mechanical firebreak monitors, and how much first responder equipment does that represent?
The country could have mobilized thousands of people to fight fire danger in under four months. Australian leaders already did as much. During World Wars I and II, tens of thousands of Australians sacrificed their lives tens of thousands of miles from home for the benefit of the world’s big capitalist conglomerates. During the Vietnam War, tens of thousands of Australian young people were forcibly drafted. But the country can’t mobilize the population and military resources when the country goes up in smoke!
So long as Sydney’s financial market is open, despite smoke darkening the sky, “business as usual” continues.
Australia is not an exceptional country, nor is it the worst of the industrialized nations. It is like the rest of the capitalist world. The rage inspired by the fires should be targeted against the whole system.
Jan 20, 2020
Australia’s wildfires have killed 26 people so far, and forced thousands to leave their homes to the flames. Over a billion animals are dead, over 20 million acres burned.
Every serious scientist, as well as anyone with common sense, understands that these out-of-control infernos are the result of ultra-dry conditions created by global warming, on top of neglect of basic fire-control planning at all levels.
But the Rupert Murdoch media empire in Australia broadcasts that it is neither of these causes, but a campaign of arson by environmentalists and others.
Murdoch, speaking like so many of his billionaire class, and in support of continued profit from coal production, is blowing his own kind of smoke to divert attention and to confuse the issue. He’s taken a page from the asbestos companies that claimed smokers caused their own asbestos-related cancers, and from the tobacco companies who claimed for years that there was “no scientific evidence” that smoking their cigarettes would cause its own kinds of cancer.
The fact is that the billionaire class’s system is responsible for these global-warming disasters. They want to continue profiting at all costs, and to hell with the Earth and living things on it.
Jan 20, 2020
On January 3rd, U.S. forces in Iraq carried out an airstrike that killed an Iranian general, the leader of an Iraqi militia, and eight other people. Iraqis were understandably outraged, and the Iraqi parliament immediately voted to expel all U.S. forces from the country.
But when the Iraqi Prime Minister asked U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send delegates to work out the details of the troop withdrawal, Pompeo refused.
He said the U.S. is in Iraq to train Iraqi forces to fight ISIS, and that “we’re going to continue that mission.” Of course, the deadly airstrike against the Iranian general and the Iraqi militia leader, who had both fought against ISIS, proved they have other reasons.
Iraq has its own parliament, and is supposedly a sovereign state. But imperialism has no intention of withdrawing until its interests dictate it.
The U.S. occupation continues, with no end in sight.
Jan 20, 2020
Over the last month, at least 143 people from Honduras and El Salvador who had applied for asylum in the U.S. were shipped to Guatemala. Many of them were not even told where they were going until after the plane landed. They were then given an immediate choice: apply for asylum in Guatemala, or leave that country within 72 hours.
These migrants—many of them children—have to choose between braving the journey to the U.S. again, or returning home to the likely deaths they fled in the first place, or staying in a country just as poor as the one they left, where they have no ties and face the same gangs that operate in their home countries.
In fiscal 2019, 264,000 people from Guatemala itself were detained at the U.S. border, the most of any country. Most of these Guatemalan migrants surrendered to the Border Patrol and applied for asylum from the gang violence rampant in their home country. That’s why, according to Guatemala’s migration agency, only five of the people the U.S. has sent there have applied for asylum in Guatemala. As one Honduran mother who was fleeing with her son after he was shot in the face by gangsters put it, “why would they send us to a country where the same gangs are operating?”
This is the U.S. government’s latest cynical solution to the very real crisis at the border: throw the refugees to the wolves.
Jan 20, 2020
Indonesia’s Lion Air considered putting its pilots through simulator training before flying the Boeing Co. 737 Max, according to Bloomberg News. But, Boeing convinced Lion Air in 2017 that this training was unnecessary. The next year, 189 people died when a Lion Air 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea because a new flight-control feature on the plane malfunctioned and untrained pilots did not know how to handle the malfunctioning system.
It turns out that while Lion Air was asking for the much needed training, Boeing management was callously mocking them. “Now friggin Lion Air might need a sim to fly the MAX, and maybe because of their own stupidity. I’m scrambling trying to figure out how to unscrew this now! idiots,” one Boeing employee wrote in text messages released by the House committee investigating the case. In response, another Boeing colleague replied: “WHAT THE F%$&!!!! But their sister airline is already flying it!,” referring to Malindo Air, the Malaysian-based carrier.
The only apparent reason for Boeing to block such training was that it was going to cost Boeing money and reduce its profits.
Because of these deadly accidents, Boeing asked the top managers to leave the company, only to save face and put the blame on these managers. But, at the same time, Boeing handsomely rewarded them. Boeing will pay its former Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg awards and stock options, along with his pension and deferred pay, totaling as much as 80.7 million dollars. Boeing also disclosed that Kevin McAllister, who led the firm’s commercial airplanes division until he left, did receive 14.8 million dollars.
By contrast, Boeing set aside only 50 million dollars to compensate the families of crash victims.
Jan 20, 2020
The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of Jan. 13, 2020.
The Gross Domestic Product has now been expanding for 11 years. It’s the longest U.S. economic expansion in history. Stock market indexes are also breaking historic records.
Life couldn’t be better!
Of course, it all depends on whose life you are talking about.
The CEOs of big corporations make more in one day than the average worker makes in a year. Dennis Muilenberg, the head of Boeing, who lost his job after the 737 Max plane disasters, walked out the door with 80 million dollars—on the same day Boeing cutbacks led to 2100 layoffs of production workers. A corporation like Enbridge, whose pipelines poison Michigan waterways, showed that the pursuit of profit knows no bounds. Corporations rolling in profit “invest” in financial speculation, putting an already fragile financial system at greater risk. The hereditary leisure class whose income comes from the ownership of stocks and bonds grabbed enough last year to buy up another Cayman island or two.
But for the majority of the population, the degeneration of living conditions continues. Most households are poorer than they were before the financial collapse of 2007. The percentage of people with a job—any kind of a job—is lower than it was before the 2007 collapse. Life expectancy continued to decline—in this country with the most advanced medical technology in the world.
Factories close—and on the heels of their closures come increases in suicides and in deaths by drug overdose.
Battered by climate and government policies, farmers lose the family land to banks intent on selling to “developers.”
In cities like Detroit or Baltimore or Chicago, the neighborhoods where working people lived for generations are destroyed by “developers” who pursue profit by “revitalizing” cities for the benefit of the wealthy. As for Los Angeles—impossible rents have pushed people out into the desert, or into tent cities put up by the homeless.
In the midst of all this, war in the Middle East forces itself on our consciousness. And the crazy weather reminds us that global warming is real, and the threat to human life cannot be wished away by politicians who deny its reality.
This has been the steady rhythm of life for almost a half century. The steady increase in wealth of those at the very head of capitalist society is based on the worsening situation of people who work every day for their living. And U.S.-provoked wars in the Middle East have laid down their steady background for it.
There are people who look at all this and say there is nothing that can be done about it.
It’s true, one person can’t change all this. All of this is based on a system. And one person doesn’t change a system.
The system we live under was built up over long years by the capitalist class. It will take another class, organized for itself, to replace it.
That class is the working class—us, all of us. Even while we feel like victims of capitalism today, we are the ones who make society run. Today we make it run for the benefit of the capitalist class.
Tomorrow, we could make it run for the benefit of the population. Our position in the economy gives us the means to do it. Not only could we bring the capitalist pursuit of profit to a screeching halt, we could use our position in the very center of the real economy to reorganize the way society runs. We produce the goods everyone needs, we distribute them, we stock them in stores for sale, we sell them, we keep the records, make the orders, carry out all the processes that society needs to function, including health and education.
This is what we need to think about as the year 2020 unfolds—what power we could have, how we could use it, what kind of life we would build.
Jan 20, 2020
Families of soldiers living on Maryland’s Fort Meade army base sued private landlord Corvias Management in November over their horrible housing conditions, including mold everywhere, pests like cockroaches and millipedes, and standing water. Families at other bases have made similar fights recently.
Base housing has always been atrociously maintained. What is new in the last 22 years is that the military leased almost all of its U.S. base housing to private, for-profit companies. After handing out three billion dollars for construction, the military pays the companies four billion dollars a year to house 600,000 adults and 100,000 children. Profits are enormous. The owner of Corvias boasts of his six million dollar beach house and huge yacht.
Inspectors of newly built housing on a number of bases found widespread fire hazards, faulty electrical wiring, and uncontrolled mold growth. Meanwhile, 100,000 older homes are still contaminated with toxic lead paint from the 1970s or before. But the companies and military commanders threaten families who complain about these conditions.
Jan 20, 2020
The Washington, D.C. government forced several dozen people to remove their tents from under a railway overpass downtown where they had been living. After three years of disrupting the tent colony every two weeks with the pretext of keeping the area clean, now the city claims it wants to make the sidewalk “safe” for pedestrians.
What about making the city safe for lower-paid workers, the unemployed, and people denied the mental and physical care they need—and affordable housing?
But for the real estate developers, restaurant and bar owners, and other business people who control local government, that’s too much to ask.
Jan 20, 2020
A week before Thanksgiving, Dominique Walker, her two children, and two other families moved into a vacant three-bedroom house in West Oakland, according to the New York Times. The house they moved into is owned by Wedgewood, a Redondo Beach, California company that buys and renovates homes, then flips them to create profits for the company.
For Ms. Walker, moving into the house was a way to find shelter as well as make a statement. She knew that she wasn’t supposed to be in this Oakland house owned by rich property owners, but she did it anyway.
Ms. Walker is one of three founding members of a group that calls itself Moms 4 Housing.
Wedgewood Company declared, “The solution to Oakland’s housing crisis is not the redistribution of citizens’ homes through illegal break-ins and seizures by squatters.” As expected, a judge ruled in favor of the company—Ms. Walker and the other families living there had to leave the house.
Recognizing that sheriff’s deputies could arrive any moment, several hundred supporters of the group packed the street with banners, and created a human blockade on the home’s front steps. The sheriff’s deputies, dressed in riot gear, with armored vehicles, resorted to crude force to evict people.
Ms. Walker said: “We’ve been in this house for 50 days of shelter for us and our children. That’s a win and it’s a start, and people are starting to realize that, ‘Hey, housing is a human right or it should be.’ So that to me, is the absolute success.”
Jan 20, 2020
Six years ago, whole neighborhoods were hijacked to make way for Little Caesar’s (LCA) sports-entertainment-office-retail arena complex in downtown Detroit. Over 400 million dollars from the city of Detroit and State of Michigan went to this arena deal. Not to mention 39 parcels of land for free. And in return, the billionaire group, the Ilitch organization, owners of the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, and Little Caesar’s pizza chain, made grand promises of transforming the area.
Promises that continue to be broken—the latest being their failure to build a major hotel and row of retail businesses on the main street by the arena, Woodward, by 2018.
It’s now 2020. And recently these billionaires asked for ever more time (up to 4 years more, on top of the 3 years they have already taken). In return, they proposed to “give” the city two empty lots in nearby neighborhoods that the city could use for parking space. A city spokesperson had the nerve to say the deal “benefits our residents.”
What nonsense! All the benefits go the Ilitches, and their billionaire’s playground.
Jan 20, 2020
The Detroit News analyzed 173,000 residential properties in the City of Detroit. They found that 96,000, over half, were overtaxed.
The total value of the rip-off amounts to 600 million dollars! Sixty-three thousand homeowners currently have delinquent debt and are at risk of being foreclosed upon. Almost all of that delinquent debt is due to overtaxing, and overtaxed homeowners still owe 153 million dollars in back taxes.
Detroit is one of the poorest cities in the country, with a poverty rate of 40%. When the scandal broke about the city’s practice of over-assessing home values, it came out that impoverished homeowners could qualify for property tax exemptions, but the city had done little to inform anyone. Of 39,000 eligible Detroit homeowners, only 7,600 received an exemption last year.
Even if some homeowners now are receiving exemptions and many more could, this does nothing to pay back the hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal taxes stolen from homeowners through false assessments.
Detroit once had one of the highest rates of home-ownership, especially for the black population, of any city in the country. Now it ranks among the lowest. The Detroit News’ investigation found that the city foreclosed on 70,000 homes between 2009 and 2015. Add to this tens of thousands more people who lost their homes due to the subprime mortgage scam banks and other lenders carried out. Homeowners who paid inflated property taxes could have used that money to make payments on their mortgages instead.
Mayor Duggan claims that if overtaxed homeowners were paid back, it would fall on other homeowners to pay more in taxes and the city can’t afford it.
What rubbish! The city has billions of dollars to give tax breaks to billionaires like the Ilitches and Gilberts, among others, but it can’t do anything to allow homeowners to keep their homes?
The politicians and the wealthy class that stands behind them need to be made to pay for their criminal actions.