Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sadly, No Surprises

Throughout history, only the most craven and ethically bankrupt individuals have been known to regularly rob the bodies of the dead for any remaining valuables, even while the body is still warm. In our modern culture, most Americans would consider that kind of theft disgusting, and a sad relic of the past.

With the smack of a gavel, and an hour-long ruling, a Judge in Detroit ruled on Tuesday that the days of modern-day body snatchers are, in fact, alive and well - so long as the one doing the stealing is a massive Wall Street bank.

The macabre act we're talking about is the ruling, by a Federal judge, that the now-battered city of Detroit is, in fact, eligible to enter bankruptcy proceedings. The judge also ruled that the Constitution of the state of Michigan, which expressly protects the pension funds of retired public sector workers, was effectively nullified by the desire of banks to steal the hard-earned retirement funds of Detroit's former police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other former public-sector workers.

For any American who's ever put their retirement money in a private pension fund, this action should send chills down their spine, in the same way that robbing the dead body of a still-warm human would.

Of course, if you understand this is just the latest chapter in a long history of Wall Street pillaging Detroit, you're likely as unsurprised as we are.

As a study by the think tank Demos proved just last month, for all the hate and scorn the political right would like to heap on Detroit and it's unions, the reason that town has become such a bombed out shell of its former glory is simple: the greed of Wall Street banks.

As the study - and many others like it - confirmed, Detroit's disastrous current economic state stems from its history as a one-industry town. As David Sirota noted in Salon recently, the recession and free-trade-related deindustrialization decimated the city’s manufacturing job base and drove the population out of the city. When the jobs and citizens left, the tax base of Detroit went with it, leaving the decaying shell of a once-great industrial city.

The financial wizards of Wall Street didn't think the Motor City was going to be worthless until it was completely dead. Schemes crafted by some of Wall Street's most ethically bankrupt organizations were created to effectively steal anything else of value from the city - including one of the most incredible collections of publicly owned art in the world, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Up until Tuesday, hard-working retirees from Detroit didn't think that the money they'd saved in their pension funds - money they get in lieu of Social Security - had anything much in common with the amazing works of Diego Rivera, or or the works of Picasso and Rubens.

Now, thanks to the ruling of one ethically-challenged Federal judge, it's not just Rodin's Thinker that needs to re-think his safety. Retirees across the nation may now have good reason to worry about their pension savings being robbed by some of Wall Street's lowest, yet most profitable. Already in Illinois, the state legislature has agreed to a "fix" for their pension crisis that effectively steals millions in benefits that retired workers already paid for, and gives that money to banks and other creditors.

What's going on in Illinois shouldn't really surprise anyone, sadly.

If Wall Street is willing to basically pick over the corpse of a city like Detroit, why wouldn't they go after the still-living in Illinois, or anywhere else in America?