Taken from a much longer article here this puts much more flesh on the bones of the Detroit water cut-off affair. Here are facts that all working people should be able to identify with. How secure is your job or tenure? How many weeks or months could you hold your head above water if you were to lose your income from factory closure, business offshoring, or unexpected sudden illness or accident? No one of the working class can be secure within the capitalist system and that's a fact. Working together to bring about socialism will enable us to free ourselves from these insecurities.
When Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy 5 years ago, the laborers took the
overwhelming brunt of the punitive measures that were handed out. In the
wake of Chrysler's restructuring and ultimate sale to Italian automaker
Fiat, 4 factories were shut down, 789 dealerships—and an estimated 37,000 jobs - were lost, cost-of-living wage adjustments were eliminated and a two-tier wage scale was created
that allows Chrysler to pay new hires half of what they pay their more
experienced workers. Meanwhile, on the backs of these massive cuts and
with the aid of $12.5 billion dollars in taxpayer aide - $1.3 billion of which will never be recovered- the now 100% Italian owned Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is making out like a bandit, posting a net profit of $1.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013 alone.
As was the case with the $700 billion bank bailout in 2008 and the
recent corporate thievery involved in the Patriot Coal bankruptcy case,
the auto industry and government officials have used our nation's legal
system to burden ordinary citizens with the collateral damage from
financial crises that they had nothing to do with.
One of the most instrumental players in the Chrysler bankruptcy case was
Kevyn Orr, a partner at the massive law firm Jones Day who was charged
with the task of bringing Chrysler back to life as expeditiously and
ruthlessly as possible. Orr carved up Chrysler with surgical precision,
completing the reorganization of the company within 42 days and raking in more than $1 million in legal fees during the process.
As a reward for his work in the bankruptcy case, Orr was named by
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder as the "Emergency Manager" of the City of
Detroit in 2013, a title that is about as ominous and Orwellian as
anything this side of the Department of Homeland Security. As Emergency
Manager, Orr has essentially been given free reign to do with the City
of Detroit as he sees fit, without any interference from pesky,
democratically elected city council members and officials, who are
essentially impotent during the time the city is judged to be in a
An Emergency Manager is essentially a de jure dictator of a local government and/or school district during a fiscal crisis. The Emergency Manager can
usurp the power of all government officials, modify union contracts,
alter pensions for city workers, sell off public assets and exercise
complete authority over local school districts. And he can also
work with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department Board of Water
Commissioners to shut off the water supply for residents who are behind
on their payments by as little as 60 days or $150, because—according to
the Emergency Manager's stated logic—the best way to stimulate a
struggling local economy is by shutting off the water supply to more 17,000 of said economy's poorest and most vulnerable members.
The City of Detroit's water policy, which the United Nations has termed, "a violation of the human right to water.",
is just the most recent instance of a disturbing trend in American
politics to reframe problems related to globalization, corporate greed
and rising income inequality on a growing class of unemployed, underpaid
and overworked citizens. Emergency Manager Orr and his stable of
bankruptcy lawyers have tried mightily to cast these water shutoffs as a matter of economic necessity and personal responsibility,
painting themselves as honest businessmen and the citizens who can't
pay their water bills as "scofflaws" and "people gaming the system." The
only problem is that this neither of these assertions are based in
As a cost saving measure, shutting off the water supply for the
city's poorest residents makes no sense. Due to recent sweeping layoffs
within the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, the city was forced to mete out a $5 million contract to a private demolition company
to shut off the water to about 17,000 homes which have an average
outstanding water bill of only $540. If the city truly wanted to get
their money back, they would've started hounding Joe Louis Arena, Ford
Field, Palmer Park Golf Club and half of the commercial and industrial
buildings in the city who owe roughly $30 million in overdue water fees.
Likewise, the idea that the failure of Detroit residents to pay their
water bills is simply a "choice" that they are making in an effort to
avoid payment for basic services collapses under the weight of inquiry.
When your city has lost 63% of its population since 1950, sports a poverty rate of 42%, has a per capita income that is less than half the national average, and has had its water rates increased by nearly 120% over the past decade
with no accompanying rise in wages, any choice that is left to you is
between the Scylla of unpaid utilities and the Charybdis of overdue rent
and empty cupboards.