The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Detroit Bankruptcy Sets the Pattern for Next Year’s Attacks

Nov 10, 2014

With big financial vultures in attendance in the courtroom, Judge Steven Rhodes made Detroit’s bankruptcy plan official. He approved the “grand bargain” constructed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit’s Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr, and accepted by the city’s big financial creditors and the unions.

The deal in reality is more like grand larceny at the expense of Detroit public workers. The judge and the bosses’ media make it seem as though the plan will eliminate the city’s debt. In reality, it “eliminates” only seven billion dollars of the 18 billion dollars owed by the city. Of that seven billion, almost 80 per cent will come from the pockets of city workers, according to the Detroit Metro Times.

The near-elimination of retiree health care accounts for four billion dollars of the cuts. Retirees in the city’s “general” system–not from police and fire departments–used to pay 20 percent of their healthcare costs. Now they receive only a $125 per month stipend toward buying health care from the federal health care exchanges, which currently cost retirees $500 a month or more.

Retirees are being robbed in four different ways, with a 4.5 per cent reduction in their pensions; big reductions to their cost-of-living, or COLA increase; and a “claw back” of annuity benefits they had already been paid; in addition to the slashing of their health care. The cuts to city workers don’t apply just to current retirees–they include even deeper cuts to active and future employees as well.

Other than eliminating the city’s debt to public employees, the plan does anything but eliminate its remaining debts. It hands over to the city’s big financial “creditors” land and taxes, which are revenue-producing, such as the entire Joe Louis Arena property and toll receipts from the Detroit-Windsor (Canada) Tunnel.

These gifts are much like the casino revenues the city gave away in a previous scam carried out by the big banks. Those banks played a big part in creating the city’s current financial mess. These gifts will go on producing revenue for the banks. And those future revenues are ignored when the media repeats the lie that Wall Street creditors will get only 13 cents on the dollar for their debts.

Judge Rhodes cried crocodile tears when he admitted that this grand larceny “will cause real hardship, and, in some cases, it is severe.” He tacked on a blatant lie, saying it’s about “shared sacrifice that is necessary because the city is insolvent ....”

There is no “shared sacrifice.”

The city is insolvent because of the giveaways to the banks and the corporations! So stop giving to them.

Attacks on public employees will certainly not stop in Detroit. The judge as much as admitted it, calling Detroit’s bankruptcy scheme “an ideal model for future debt restructurings.”

He means it’s an ideal model for every city, state, and county in the country looking to dump its pension obligations. Detroit’s bankruptcy has drawn lots of interest from the financial media and other cities already thinking about cutting pensions. Now that the elections are over, other public institutions will hold the example of Detroit’s bankruptcy over employees’ heads as they demand big pension cuts.

The attack on Detroit retirees will roll through the public sector, just like the auto restructuring was used by all of private industry to reduce the wages and benefits for their workers, too.

The whole working class is under attack by both private profit-making interests and public officials. They have as their goal the lowering of the standard-of-living of all workers, in order to increase profits.

In such a situation, there is no answer to the attacks until the working class begins to act as a whole, until workers begin to fight and join their fights together.