Wed, 27 March 2013
The Lords of Capital Seize Detroit
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“Financial manager Kevyn Orr may answer to the state of Michigan, but he represents the corporate class.”
Detroit’s state-appointed emergency financial manager promised that he won’t cut the salaries of the City Council or the mayor – at least not for the time being. On Thursday, under the law that makes corporate lawyer Kevyn Orr the dictator of the 82 percent Black city, the mayor and city council’s salaries will automatically be set at zero. Which is what their powers will amount to – and what the vote of Detroit’s 700,000 people will be worth – under the new regime: zero.
Demonstrators have been protesting the disenfranchisement of what now comprises more than half of Michigan’s Black population. Rev. David Bullock says, “This is about the state taking over cities and school districts.” Technically, he’s right. But the state is only acting as a bully for the real usurpers of political power: corporate America. Financial manager Kevyn Orr may answer to the state of Michigan, but he represents the corporate class, mainly finance capital. His law firm, Jones Day, from which he has technically – and, no doubt, temporarily – resigned, brags that it represent more than half the Fortune 500 companies in the United States. On top of that, while Orr sits in the Detroit dictator’s seat, his law firm is taking over as restructuring counsel for the city. This means that lawyers for Jones Day will be handling the sale of Detroit’s property and the cancelling of its contracts as ordered by another Jones Day lawyer, Kevyn Orr. As Atty. Tom Stephens points out, under this incestuous arrangement, “the same law firm is effectively serving as attorney, client, and local government” in Detroit – a concentration of power that would be unthinkable in a majority white metropolis.
“Kevyn Orr will be making decisions on how Detroit will deal with creditors that include his former firm’s Wall Street client, Merrill Lynch.”
But it gets worse. Jones Day also represents many of the banks that were primarily responsible for rendering Detroit’s tax base untenable, through devastating home foreclosures. One of them is Bank of America, the parent company of Merrill Lynch, which is a counter party to Detroit’s derivative interest rate swaps. As Tom Stephens explains, that means Merrill Lynch “is one of the city’s key creditors.” So, financial dictator Kevyn Orr will be making decisions on how Detroit will deal with creditors that include his former firm’s Wall Street client, Merrill Lynch. What Kevyn Orr calls his job description would be grounds for an indictment for criminal conspiracy in any society under the rule of law.
But, that’s the point: the corporate rulers of America have discarded the rule of law – certainly, as it affects Black people, who are targeted for disenfranchisement and outright removal from the nation’s cities. Yes, the corporate henchman Kevyn Orr is Black, which only goes to show that the Lords of Capital have enlisted a class of Black folks who will enthusiastically assist in the liquidation of African American political, civil, economic and human rights.
One of them now sits in the White House. Barack Obama is the biggest privatizer of public schools in history, far more effective than George Bush. The massive assault on local elected authority over the public schools, mainly targeting Black school districts, paved the way for privatization through charters. It was only a matter of time before Black city governments were also neutralized. President Obama has been indispensable to this whole process, as has Detroit mayor Dave Bing. So, it is true that the siege of Detroit is largely racial. It is also true that more than a few Black folks are working for the other side.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.