MELTDOWN IN MOTOWN:
During the Memorial Day weekend–as that icon of American invincibility,
, faced the near certainty of bankruptcy within days–The Nation and the
Institute for Policy Studies
hosted a spirited panel discussion at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, titled “Meltdown: The Economic Collapse and a People’s Plan for Recovery,” moderated with passionate intensity by Washington correspondent
. Even as the idea that Detroit would soon endure yet another economic earthquake was so painful as to be nearly unimaginable, the panelists, recognizing that imaginative leadership is precisely what has been missing, brought their creative minds to bear on the question of what might come next for the city–if the interests of the people who live there were put center stage.
In his opening remarks, Congressman
called President Obama the “smartest man in the world, with”–in reference to the composition of the national auto task force–“some of the dumbest advisers.” City Councilwoman
, fresh from hosting a public session on making the stimulus package work for Detroit, lamented that so few funds had thus far been made available and brandished her own bold “Marshall Plan for Detroit” to bring the city back to life. Nation contributor
called for economic policies to promote full employment and living wages and a pro-worker green transition that could see Detroit manufacturing city buses rather than SUVs.
declared that Detroit must make immigrants welcome, since they are key to its repopulation and therefore to its future. Bestselling author and Nation writer
attested to the nickel-and-diming of America, which has led to the destruction of welfare and decent working-class life, while UAW Local 235 member
talked about the urgent need for an autoworker movement with a social agenda distinct from that of industry management. Legendary activist and author
Grace Lee Boggs
sketched out a socialist vision of a society organized around goals other than economic growth.
With a plunging population, a median home price of only $7,500 and the slated closure of twenty-nine public schools this year, there’s little good news coming from “the D” these days. But the political leadership on the platform at Cobo Hall pointed to the possibility of a brighter future, the battle for which will be joined by many others at a “People’s Summit” in the city, June 14-17, and the US Social Forum next June, when tens of thousands are expected to arrive from across the nation. Organizers are concerned about finding public transportation to bring visitors from the airport. BETSY REED