Banks want bailout from retirees

By: Dave Palmer

Detroit’s bankruptcy case is is full swing, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for Detroit. Ultimately, it will be up to one man, Judge Stephen Rhodes, to decide whether to accept Kevyn Orr’s “Grand Bargain” which would require creditors to accept between 0 and 10 cents on the dollar, cut pensions by 4.5% along with some cost of living adjustments, all while providing $1.2 billion for the improvement of public services, or to reject it an require the city to pay the 75 cents on the dollar Syncora is requesting by turning over the Windsor-Detroit tunnel, Detroit’s City Airport, and the Detroit Institute of Arts, no doubt accompanied by more severe cuts to pensions.

It is at this point that I begin to wonder if bankers actually believe that they can get blood from a stone. It would appear they intend to do so by privatizing publicly owned assets, and even assets that are not wholly owned and financed by the city of Detroit, even seemingly expecting people outside the city should help bail them out of their greed, not to mention depriving seniors of their duly earned retirement benefits.

Detroit’s public service retirees agreed to forfeit certain additional compensation in order to provide themselves an income they could live on in their golden years. These are not golden parachutes, mind you. The value of the pensions in question will hold steady at somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 per year before the 4.5% cut goes into effect. Yet, these people are being required to give up part of what amounts to their retirement savings plan in order to correct the errors in the management of the pension fund. Errors that they did not make, errors they did not ask for, errors in calculation that are wholly the responsibility of the pension fund managers. Somehow, the blame got shifted to the workers.

Damn them for wanting a comfortable retirement, damn them for requesting the full value of their retirement savings, how dare they be so greedy as to not want to have to work for their money, and instead have their money work for them! (Never mind that man in the three-piece suit smoking a cigar behind the curtain doing the exact same thing, except for the fact that when he loses money, he wants everybody else to help him pay for his mistakes)

Of course, the man behind the curtain will not be happy unless the public parts with services and establishments they paid for with their tax dollars are turned over to him. Never mind that old conservative belief that public money should never be used to bail out private interests. Those beliefs obviously do not apply to the billions of dollars the man behind the curtain gambled away and summarily lost.

So, we are expected to part ways with another international border crossing to allow yet another private interest control our only other local connection to Windsor. We are expected to allow Syncora to march in and take over toll collections and tunnel maintenance, all while maintaining a tidy profit margin for their shareholders. (Of course, tolls will no doubt skyrocket as the company claims that the cost of maintaining the tunnel was greater than what they expected and it’s up to us poor waifs to pay for their miscalculation.)

Not only that, but the tri-county area is apparently on the hook for the terrible management of Detroit’s finances as well, considering that Syncora is also demanding we turn over the DIA. Never mind that ballot item we passed a few years ago agreeing to help fund the DIA with some of our tax dollars in exchange for free admission to the museum at any time. Never mind that the art in the museum is technically held in a public trust, and can only be sold or traded for the enhancement or improvement of the collection. The entire tri-county area should summarily turn over their tax dollars to Syncora and allow them to start charging an admission to the museum of top of that so their balance sheets can consistently show numbers in the black.

And of course, the corporate welfare scheme would not be complete without a private airport for Syncora executives and all their uber-wealthy buddies to land their private jets and helicopters. Never mind that the surrounding area will no doubt be bought for a song, gated communities and Hilton hotels built, and property values jacked so high that no one but the .01% will be able to afford to visit, much less live there.

It is at this point that I’ve had quite enough of this nonsense.

It is not the fault of the retirees that the pension fund managers mismanaged their retirement plan. Therefore, we should hold the pension fund managers responsible. We helped fund the DIA, helped fund the tunnel, and helped fund the airport, so all those public assets should be off-limits to private interests. Most of all, we should be holding the banks and bond purchasers responsible for their poor investments.

I can’t get a fourth credit card to pay of the other three I’ve already maxed out. How is it then that Detroit was able to qualify for loan after loan and loans to pay off loans? All the bankers and insurers could see is the piles of money they would be raking in from interest, penalties, and insurance premiums. Never mind that investment technically has two possible outcomes of success or failure. In the mind of bankers, even failure needs to be a success, regardless of the cost to the economy, the general public, or even the nation.

Therefore, we can solve this problem by requiring investors to eat crow and write off their bad investments. If we allow banks to make bad business deals, bad investments, and bad credit decisions and require the public to replace the money they have lost in those deals, what consequences for their actions are they experiencing? The more we continue to require the public to bail out private interests, the more bold they will become in their gambling, the more they will fail, and the more they will come back to the public with their hands out like a child who has spent all of his allowance money on a toy they broke in the first five minutes they played with it. Judge Stephen Rhodes has an opportunity to make big banks and bond insurers have some culpability for their mistakes. It would be most wise for him to use this power to its greatest effect.

Detroit: Bankrupt, DIA and workers: screwed

By Dave Palmer

Today marks a new low in America’s history. Today is that day that Judge Steven W. Rhodes decided that Detroit is officially eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, according to the New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/04/us/detroit-bankruptcy-ruling.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131204) The Times also states that Rhodes decided that the pensions of thousands of retired, soon-to-be-retired, and current workers are not protected under Chapter 9 Bankruptcy. WDIV news reported that not only are pensions on the line, but the works of the DIA, and many other city-owned assets are on the table as bargaining chips.

Most Detroiters at this point most likely expected that Detroit would enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy, especially considering the city is some $18 billion in the hole. However, I would argue that most Detroiters did not expect that a judge like Rhodes who has a reputation for being tough but fair would rule against the retirement plans of thousands of former City of Detroit employees along with the city jewels.

Detroit’s bankruptcy is the largest in history, and will most likely serve as precedent in future municipal bankruptcy cases. Considering that, according to Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/24/steven-rhodes-judge-detroit-bankruptcy_n_3643284.html, Rhodes worked to attract corporate bankruptcies earlier in his career, his final decision in this case potentially could reverberate throughout both the public and private sectors.

That’s good news for corporations and pension fund managers, but bad news for the workers.

Already, the private sector has all but eliminated employee eligibility for pensions, leaving the public sector with the lion’s share of potential pensioners. If you don’t believe me, just think back about a year when a company by the name of Hostess told its employees that their pension fund was overextended and it would have to be cut. This led to an employee strike, and Hostess in the end declared bankruptcy, only to have their products magically reappear on store shelves just recently. The executives ended up with a golden parachute, and the workers got stuck with the check.

Depending on the outcome of Detroit’s bankruptcy hearing, employees in the public sector could end up in the same boat as the Hostess employees; stuck with a meager or no pension after they spent years of their life and thousands of their own dollars to buy a bit of security in their golden years. All a municipality would have to do is enter into a pension agreement they knew was destined to fail, fail to pay their bills for about 30 years, declare bankruptcy, and POOF! No pensions for workers. As mentioned in the latter paragraph, the fact that Rhodes actively tried to land corporate bankruptcy cases and ruled on some of them could be used by greasy corporate attorneys as a way for companies to welsh on their contractual pension obligations through bankruptcy.

It has become quite clear at this point that our government and our corporations have pretty much become a single entity. Our politicians now have to raise many millions of dollars which they have to beg for from corporations. The corporations then expect certain policies to be enacted in return, which of course benefit only the corporations and hurt everyone else. In some cases, members of Congress have multi-million dollar lobbyist jobs waiting for them when they leave Congress in return for enacting regressive tax schemes and confirming the appointment of judges who have their best interests in mind. These are the same companies that they are supposed to be regulating and watching over to prevent them from declaring bankruptcy so they can line their own pockets with a middle-class worker’s pension.

Now is the time for Americans nationwide to petition their legislatures for a Constitutional amendment severely limiting private funding of public elections and preventing members of Congress from being involved in any way, shape, or form with the companies they are supposed to be regulating. The Constitution states that if a constitutional convention is called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and if that Convention proposes one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions, without the involvement of Congress.

We the people must take our government and our democracy back. If Congress isn’t with us, they are against us, and we must take action that circumvents their stranglehold on this country.

Every Avenue @ St. Andrew’s 10/23/11 (Photos and Review)

David Ryan Strauchman – Vocals, Piano
Joshua Withenshaw – Guitar, Backup Vocals
Jimmie Deeghan- Guitar, Backup Vocals
Matt Black – Bass, Backup Vocals
Dennis Wilson – Drums

Hometown-Marysville, MI!

Michigan band Every Avenue is a musically strong group that produces contagious songs. Sunday night in Detroit the band meshed well together and performed with a zest that is customary of their live shows. Frontman Dave delivered his lyrics in a believable way because he sang with emotion and a relevant degree of earnestness. Their homecoming was well worth the wait. Every Avenue is another example of the the large pool of musicians that Michigan is proud to call their own.

  1. SETLIST
  2. Tie Me Down
  3. A Story to Tell your Friends
  4. Where Were You
  5. For Always, Forever
  6. Whatever Happened to You
  7. Only Place I Call Home
  8. No One But You
  9. Picture Perfect
  10. Fall Apart
  11. Tell Me I’m a Wreck

  

 

 

The Same Old Education Song (Society’s Slideshow)

Legislators across the nation and here in Michigan all love to sing the same ‘ol education song. I’m sure you’ve heard the lyrics before.

It goes a little like this:

Let’s raise the standards for students while we take away the means for educators to meet them.

Let’s require that all students take the ACT and then moan when the students who are not serious about attending college do poorly on the test.

Let’s throw out collective bargaining agreements and require teachers to pay more for insurance, make less money and have the right to “Teach for Less.”

Any teacher will tell you that teaching for less does not sound like an appealing prospect.

Michigan Legislature is considering a bill that would forbid teachers from contributing to their union dues electronically. It would also severely limit their ability to collectively bargain for things like higher wages, better benefits, and better retirement plans.

This asinine idea must stem from brains are rotted from being too long out of school and spoiled from too many years of high-paying government jobs. This effectively tells Michigan teachers that they are not worth the salaries, benefits and retirement plans they demand. Whenever you tell an employee he’s not worth his salary, usually he will find a place where his talents are appreciated.

The result of such misguided legislation will be no different. It will serve to drive the best educators out of the state in search of school districts that are willing to pay top dollar for top talent. Once the top talent has migrated to other states, all that will be left are ineffective educators who will work as little as possible for the measly sum that they will be paid.

Of course, there will be some who will bust their tails for their respective districts. However, once they find out how little they are being paid in comparison to teachers in other states, they will follow their predecessors right across the state line never to return.

Out of all the ways one might think of to reform education, paying teachers less and requiring them to perform more should be dead last on the list. Cutting school budgets for things like technology and books should be just above this idea on the list.

Instead, politicians should be looking for a way to improve education through investing in it. Unfortunately for big business, that may mean requiring all of them to pay taxes here, and re-evaluating individual property tax structure. It could also mean raising the individual income tax rate by one percent across the board, which would more than pay for our current deficit and leave us with a healthy reserve.

The politicians we have in office need to wake up and smell the slate board. The reason many schools are lagging in adding a technological aspect to the curriculum is that they simply do not have enough money to put enough computers in every classroom for every student.

The reason that many schools are lacking in meeting expected AYP measurements is because they can’t afford to replace horribly outdated and equally worse for wear textbooks. The reason ACT scores have dropped across the state is because for some students, college is not the best option.

However, our legislature chooses to ignore these facts, and instead chooses to point fingers at the teachers. Surely it’s the teachers’ fault that certain parents could care less about their students’ education. Surely, it’s the teachers’ fault that one in every four children is living in poverty and can’t afford basic school supplies. Surely it’s the teachers’ fault that every time money is needed for anything in this state, the education budget gets thrown right under the bus.

In order to attract businesses with job opportunities to this state, we need qualified people to fill them. In order to get our economy going, we need people with jobs to spend money so businesses will need to hire more people.

Most of all, we need our legislature to quit targeting teachers for blame and sanctions every time a situation even remotely tied to the education system affects its overall outcome.

Write your local legislator and tell them to stop targeting teachers and start investing in the future of our state. Or better yet, just vote them out of office.

Right to Work=Right to Jerk Employees Around (Society’s Slideshow)

Michigan politicians are currently batting around an idea to bring jobs to our state. This idea involves creating right to work legislation in Michigan, which will only serve to undermine collective bargaining, break unions, and do absolutely nothing to bring us the jobs we so desperately need for the 11% of the population who is officially unemployed.

In order to understand the dynamics of right to work legislation, one must understand what right to work means. It does not refer to one’s right to seek employment on the open market. Everyone in this country has that right.

Right to work refers to legislation that states people who are represented by a union do not have to pay union dues except on a voluntary basis. This is somewhat akin to a city government deciding to make paying taxes optional. The likely outcome is that more people will opt out than pay the piper.

Unions require a decent amount of manpower to reach collective agreements. Union dues help ameliorate the cost of this business, vis-a-vis paying lawyers to execute the contracts and compensating people for their time spent in negotiations.

If unions are no longer allowed to collect dues, there will be a glut of freeloaders who will take advantage of the union’s representation. The union cannot exclude people from a collective bargaining agreement because they don’t contribute union dues. Therefore, the incentive to pay the dues is nearly non-existent.

Without these dues, collective bargaining efforts may wind up lacking the substance necessary to protect the wages, benefits, and retirement plans of the collective. This will inexorably lead to the demise of the union. No one wants to be represented by an entity that repeatedly fails to deliver on promises made.

Once the union is broken, employers will be left with little incentive to follow due process for releasing employees, increase employee wages, maintain current health benefits, or provide a retirement plan. It has been proven that union employees typically earn 10 to 40 percent more than their non-union employees in the same business. They also tend to have better health benefits and retirement plans as negotiated by their unions.

Removing the collective bargaining tools used for so many decades has no proven effect on job growth. A business owner in a unionized industry may be more inclined to set up shop in a place where they don’t have to negotiate with a union. However, this very same employer will only be regulated by at will employment laws. This means that they can fire anyone for any reason, or no reason, that is not proscribed by federal law.

Last time I checked, the ability to fire anyone for any reason or no reason does not contribute to job growth. It does contribute to employee fear or retribution in the form of a pink slip for speaking up about poor or unsafe working conditions or the fact that they haven’t had a raise in five years.

Right to work legislation will not bring any new jobs to Michigan. Instead, it  ensures that workers will be deprived of due process in termination proceedings and allow corporations to lower wages, reduce or remove benefits, and undermine a worker’s ability to save for retirement. It will also serve to prevent effective collective bargaining between employers and unions which will lead to the ultimate demise of unions that we read about in our history textbooks.

Be sure to write your Michigan Senator and Representative and tell them they are dead wrong about the potential positive outcomes contained in right to work legislation.