There certainly is a kerfuffle over the AIG bonuses. While I am certainly happy to see the execs take a public dressing down, isn’t it a bit disingenuous for those who voted to bail out these folks without much in the way of conditions now tsking tsking where some of the money landed? 165 million is a helluva lot of bread for working people like me and you, but didn’t they just throw BILLIONS at these guys? The bailout itself is the real scandal.
There is no justice in capitalist America. The auto unions take it on the chin (but hey, they’ve gotten used to that) and get told that their contracts have to go and yet AIG’s are inviolable. The news reports today that Flint, Michigan, once a citadel of the UAW where now 30 percent of the buildings stand vacant, has to figure out a way to “contract the city” as the infrastructure is now unwieldy and in disrepair. When whole parts of Michigan cities are now, quite literally, ghost towns talking in terms like “recession” just doesn’t convey the scope of the reality.
One of my current favorite homework-procrastination-time-killers these days is to peruse the classifieds for sweet wooded spots in the Upper Penninsula. Northern Michigan, where those well paid auto workers had summer homes and the rich still do, is in even worse shape. Counties like Presque Isle have unemployment near or above 20 percent. If you had a couple of thousand dollars, which no one I know does, now would be the time to get those few dream acres nestled on stream abutting the National Forest. All of the hunting camps are going for peanuts as the once propertied skilled working class tries to sell their assets to pay their debts or to make that move.
On the bright side I haven’t seen a new subdivision go up in quite some time. Whole subdivisions now stand empty or half-finished as a consequence of the housing boom then bust and the out-migration of labor. With names like “Tuscan Hills” and “Prairie Village” these monstrosities are a creeping plague on the landscape and the sooner we end the suburb, exurb, outurb cancer the better. The problem in Michigan is that the urban core is hollowed out. Detroit is only the most glaring, largest example.
It seems to me that the first step in refashioning these cities is to create real public transportation to serve and cohere the remaining communities. In deed, a massive public transportation program seems like just about the best thing we might expect from the government at this moment. It addresses numerous crises: energy and environmental, class and access, cost and efficiency, sprawl and urban renewal, etc. Nope, we get highways.
Lots and lots of highways, built for individual and commercial transportation to act as the publicly built and maintained transportation infrastructure for private business. The highway: built by Eisenhower as a Cold War missile and military transit system and since instigator of the suburb and the Hummer. We need less highways, not more. Big thinking must come in small sizes with the “progressives” in Washington these days.