Mar 14

Socialist Party of Michigan Statement on the Flint Water Crisis

The state-orchestrated poisoning of Flint’s water supply represents the latest local crisis to emerge from the ruling class’ increasing turn to colonial rule over the urban communities worst devastated by its own industrial capital migration and desertion. Concurrently with awarding over $2 billion in tax subsidies to the automaker that chopped 72,000 jobs from Flipoisonsignnt’s economy, Michigan’s corporate politicians vulturistically seized upon the battered city’s revenue-stream challenges to replace the very structure of self-governance with a state-run corporate austerity regime holding total contempt for the health and well-being of the city’s disenfranchised populace.

Equally as false as the water safety assurances of Snyder administration officials throughout the year and a half following the water source switch to the Flint River is any notion that Snyder and  other high level officials were not long before informed of the lead contamination resulting from the expense-based decision to omit federally mandated corrosion control measures. Indeed, even more damning than either the preceding year’s span of water-safety related emails to Snyder’s top aides – or even the state’s deliberate procedure of running the tap for several minutes before collecting water samples – is the fact that, in the fall of 2014, Snyder’s Flint-installed emergency manager arranged for General Motors to obtain a special reconnection back to the Detroit water system’s Lake Huron-source on account of the Flint River water’s untenable corrosion of engine parts assembled at its Flint Engine Operations Plant.

Similarly, as of January 7, 2015, the state government office building in Flint began providing coolers of purified water adjacent to each drinking fountain for state employees. In conjunction, the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) concurrently issued a notice announcing that “[t]he coolers will arrive today and will be provided as long as the public water does not meet treatment requirements.” Both the January DTMB notice and decision to rely on such a substitute commercial water source came at the very same time that state officials were insisting to Flint residents that the local tap water was safe to drink.

What Snyder and company actually mean by their claimed lack of earlier knowledge about the problems with Flint’s water is that they did not know the contamination would evoke wide enough attention or concern to be the subject of a national scandal. After all, while not attributable to the water supply, children in many of Detroit’s zip codes have long tested positive for lead poisoning at far higher rates than those of Flint—with relatively little wider public outcry.

In Flint, Snyder simply relied on the same assumption under which his administration has systematically opted to subject black-majority cities to emergency manager control, despite withholding the same approach to majority-white cities facing greater financial challenges. The crux of that assumption is the premise that as long as such predation and injustice is sharply racially and spatially tailored, neither the lives nor political rights of poor urban blacks matter enough for such actions to elicit large scale political consequences.

Although both leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have attempted to cast the Flint scandal as a solely Republican affair, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, led under the Obama White House, was equally complicit in its knowledge and concealment of the water contamination from very early on. Indeed, the EPA even took explicit measures to suppress the internal memo produced and internally submitted by Chicago-based EPA agent and lead-expert Miguel Del Toral, who, upon having discovered the apparent lead level spike in February, 2015, further personally verified the cause and scope of the contamination in April.

In response to the internal memo, Del Toral’s boss, then EPA Region 5 Head Susan Hedman, both removed and silenced Del Toral from any further work on the matter and contacted Michigan state officials to assure them that Del Toral had been “handled” and wouldn’t be heard from again. As later observed by Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor who performed the first independent lead testing of Flint’s water to refute the state’s sham test results, “It was very clear that an agreement had been reached of some sort between the EPA and MDEQ that would let MDEQ have their way with Flint’s children.”

Nor was Democratic complicity limited to the federal level. As revealed by the Snyder administration emails released after the story broke, “the ultimate decision” to approve the switch to the Flint River was made by then State Treasurer Andy Dillon, who, directly prior to joining the Snyder Administration as a cross-party appointee, served as the Michigan Democrats’ chosen State House Speaker. Also backing and celebrating the move was Flint’s Democratic then-Mayor, Dayne Walling, who subsequently kept his mayoral title while concurrently assuming the status of a direct full time employee of Flint’s emergency manager.

Among the most astonishing revelations to surface since the news of the water crisis broke is that the change of Flint’s water source to the Flint River was not, by any stretch, a cost saving measure as Snyder and his associates had all along claimed. In fact, while the switch from the Detroit water system to the Flint River was intended to be a temporary two-year measure, pending a subsequent switch to the new Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) pipeline upon its construction, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) had offered Flint a 50% reduction on its then-existing rates, resulting in savings of $800 million over 30 years and 20% lower costs than the KWA connection. Yet, upon categorically rejecting six different DWSD proposals, Flint’s emergency manager, under control of the Governor’s office, not only switched the city water source to the Flint River, but then immediately sold a 9-mile stretch of its former DWSD pipeline to Genesee County so as to hinder any possibility of reconnection.

Consequently, in light of such falsity to the entire cost-saving pretext for the decision to replace the DWSD source with the Flint River, the only probable explanation behind it is that it was intended to provoke a sudden revenue crisis for the DWSD system’s operations which would influence the then-pending approval and launch of the Great Lakes Water Authority’s corporate-modeled takeover of the DWSD infrastructure as the key step toward the Detroit water system’s  privatization. Accordingly, it thus appears that cutting Flint’s municipal costs was never even a genuine factor in the equation. Rather, the real purpose of the change was to use Flint as a pawn to help instigate the release of public assets to private business interests elsewhere in the state.

The Socialist Party of Michigan calls for the recall and criminal prosecution of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and prosecution of all other state and federal officials who knowingly attempted to maintain or conceal the poisoning of Flint’s tap water, as well as the payment of state reparations for the tragic and irreversible harm inflicted.

Additionally, we call for a massive increase in federal funding for lead removal and exposure reduction, the restoration and expansion of state municipal revenue sharing, and large scale public projects and measures to rebuild Michigan’s crumbling industrial cities —including the reopening of closed factories under social ownership and workers’ control and the enactment of a 100% capital flight tax. Most importantly, we strive to usher a new social and economic order in which human needs and democratic rights are never made subordinate to private investor and business interests.

— Adopted at the March 13, 2016 Socialist Party of Michigan state membership meeting —

May 03

Vote No on Proposal 1: Socialist Party Statement on Michigan’s May 5, 2015 Special Election Ballot Proposal

voteno_may5The Socialist Party of Michigan encourages all working class voters of our state to reject the proposed new road-maintenance funding scheme in the May 5, 2015 statewide Special Election (Proposal 15-1). In response to rising corporate investment concerns over the crumbling state of Michigan’s road conditions, the state legislature’s Proposal asks voters to approve a constitutional amendment to authorize raising the state sales tax from six to seven percent, as well as an additional net increase in motor fuel taxes.

Without even considering any rollback to the state’s 86% corporate income tax cut, let alone any reduction to the 20% of general fund dollars allocated to the state’s prison system; the legislature has crafted Proposal 1 with the intent of further saddling the state’s working class and poor with an even greater disparate share of the state’s tax burden. According to current figures from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the average cost of sales and excise taxes already amounts to 5.1% of household income for Michigan families in the lowest three-fifths of the income range — and 6.2% of household income for families with incomes in the bottom one-fifth. By contrast, the average percentage of household income paid in sales and excise taxes by Michigan families in the top one-percent of the income range amounts to a mere 0.8%.

In effort to wheedle support from low-income voters, the Proposal would also restore the state’s earned income tax credit to its pre-2011 percentage level. Yet, in at most providing an offset to the accompanying sales and fuel tax hike, the net effect of the state’s earned income tax credit reduction would still essentially remain unchanged. Thus, far from reflecting any intent to mitigate low-income workers’ disparate share of the state’s tax burden, the Proposal is truly aimed at adorning such an imbalance with the badge of state electorate approval.

The Socialist Party of Michigan’s Platform calls for a steeply graduated state income tax to fully replace the state’s regressive sales and fuel taxes, as well as the complete cessation of all private corporate tax breaks and subsidies. Ultimately, we further call for the creation of a massive social surplus to fund Michigan’s public service and community needs through the socialization of the state’s major industries under a democratically planned economic framework.

In order to move beyond the constantly recurring need for band-aid surface fixes, we also call for a significant enhancement to the durable quality of road repair surface-materials—distinctly specified to Michigan weather cycle conditions, as well as the development of ecologically sound alternatives to salt-based snow removal. Furthermore, we call for the wide scale expansion of viable alternatives to roadway-vehicle travel through the development of fully-funded high-speed rail transit systems connecting Michigan’s major cities.

There can be little doubt that the public message sent by Proposal 1’s approval would further embolden legislative efforts to push through other similarly regressive measures, if not also further attempts to leverage the status of public-benefit reductions as a means to elicit voter-acceptance of other future class-targeted attacks. In view of the Proposal’s main objective of shielding the rich from any felt share of the state’s infrastructural maintenance expenses, and correspondingly entailed ratification of the state’s regressively disparate tax burdens, Proposal 1 is altogether no less intolerable than the current conditions that it is framed to address.

Nov 12

Democrats Steer to the Right and into Defeat

PictureIf progressives can learn one thing from the 2014 election cycle, it is that they no longer have a place in the Democratic Party.

With Republicans on the offensive, Democratic incumbents and hopefuls spent the entire election running away from anything perceived to be associated with President Obama. In effect, this created numerous Democratic campaigns that ran to the right of a president that was already on a long-standing drift to the right of his own. This is in contrast to the normal state of affairs, which is where Democrats campaign on ideas that appeal to the progressive base and then do not deliver when elected.

This set of events left progressives and even many liberals without the party that they would normally identify with and vote for. The result was a sweeping defeat for Democrats in the congressional and gubernatorial elections, losing their Senate majority in the process.

At the same time that voters gave a resounding defeat to the Democrats, they also voted heavily in favor of raising the minimum wage in several states. Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota all approved minimum wage initiatives by double-digit margins, while at the same voting down statewide Democratic candidates by double-digit margins in three of the four states. By doing this, working class voters have proven that they are prepared and willing to embrace the issues and cast off the party and politicians that fail to deliver on them.

Outside of the twin parties of capitalism, Tuesday’s election saw candidates running to the left of the Democrats collectively receive over a quarter of a million votes. The parties and specific beliefs of these candidates may be different, but the fact that so many people threw their support behind at least one left-wing candidate cannot be ignored. Our own Adam Adrianson can take credit for 33,000 of these votes from his Socialist Party campaign for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees.

Moving forward, progressives in the United States have to realize that they no longer have a party that represents them. The Democratic Party is on a one-way charge to the right, and progressive-minded people have no place on that trip.

Politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the limit of what the Democrats have to offer. They serve as icons to entice progressives and liberals with populist messaging and hopes of building a radical element within the Democratic Party. In reality, they are puppets meant to distract voters and activists with hopes that will never be realized in the current political alignment.

Aside from staying in place and becoming increasingly marginalized and powerless, the only alternative for progressives in the United States is to break from the Democratic Party and move to the Left. By this, we mean the real Left, rather than the left that the Democratic Party has pretended to be.

Socialism, specifically democratic socialism, offers the social justice and economic democracy that progressives yearn for but will never see in a Democrat majority or the capitalist system. By moving towards democratic socialism, working class people who currently identify as progressive or liberal will find radical ideas they could have never dreamed of with the Democrats, along with a rapidly growing movement that is dedicated to building a new society of radical democracy from below.

We hope you will join us in this struggle.

Socialist Party USA National Action Committee 11/8/2014

Apr 26

NO SURRENDER TO THE BANKS-BACKED COUP FOR CITYWIDE FORECLOSURE!

detriseup1Socialist Party USA Metro Detroit Local Statement on the “Emergency Manager” Takeover of Detroit.

The Socialist Party of Metro Detroit expresses its staunchest opposition to the state-imposed suspension of elected governance of the city of Detroit, and likewise reaffirms its demand for the immediate restoration of elective home rule to each of the numerous other cities and school districts within and beyond Metro Detroit now operating under the unilaterally-held control of state-installed “Emergency Manager” fiefdoms.
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Mar 17

Kilpatrick Conviction: A Reminder Of Neoliberal Corruption

On March 11, 20kwamecuffed13, Detroit offered a not so subtle peek into a future that should be avoided at all costs. Former Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted on multiple charges of fraud and racketeering for doling out no-bid contracts in exchange for kickbacks. This is not just a moral failing of Kilpatrick nor just business as usual in Detroit, a city that has been circling the drain for decades nor is it a powerful message that will curtail future corruption. Shakedowns, racketeering and extortion are standard practice in a neoliberal state.
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