Category Archives: Class warfare

Detroit is the hole that Mike’s Steam Shovel Dug

mikes shovel
Who here remembers the story about Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel? Detroit’s problem is like Mike’s. Mike’s steam shovel, Mary Anne, wasn’t as nifty as new diesel shovels, just like land-locked Detroit auto plants were not as nifty as new, single story automated ones. But Mike vowed to work hard building a basement hole for city hall, so he and Mary Anne got the job. They dug a great big hole but with no way to get out of it.

Detroit dug a big hole with no way out too! Everything Detroit did to help herself didn’t slow the hole getting deeper, and her city hall was left with a dilapidated steam shovel in its basement. Detroit’s impossible hole is that it needs good paying jobs for its illiterate citizens….period. It’s that simple and that difficult.

As auto jobs left, whites left with them. Blacks could not qualify for federal housing loans because of federally supported racism and could not enter communities built up around the new plants because of restrictive covenants. So the low level jobs that the auto manufacturers allowed them to have went away.

Now, they were left in the city with poorly supported schools with few good paying jobs. Crime got worse. Family situations got worse. Home values plummeted. City revenues dropped. And as the city blight worsened while the outer suburbs improved, new businesses chose to build in growing, safer areas rather than in the city. Dig, dig, dig…

The diesel shovel jobs that competed with Mary Anne steam shovel, those jobs that illiterates in the inner city of Detroit, 47% of her citizens by some accounts, could qualify for, they are growing at 10% per year in Eastern countries but paying well less than the mandated minimum wage in Detroit.

America created an economic infrastructure that produced generations of illiterate Detroiters. Our failure to face institutional racism kept our most oppressed of citizens corralled in the city. Our elites took away jobs that illiterates could have worked. Now, our latest generation of Detroiters sit in a basement hole with no chance at earning a living wage as an alternative to crime and dysfunctional communities.

In the story, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”, because he was stuck in the hole, he created a living wage in the hole by converting his steam shovel into the new city hall furnace, making a living wage to provide the city hall with heat.

America, having created this impossible hole, must now create living wages for our tens of thousands of illiterate unemployed, and we must vow to create a future economic infrastructure that does not dig such impossible holes. Political intransigence must now make way for a willingness to fix the problem.

I wrote an article in 2011, explaining the mechanisms of job transfer to Asia that is worth reading, Called How China Ate America’s Lunch…

China was ready to take back its world leadership in 1978 after “150 years of shame” and America’s elite were all too willing to sell out our posterity to help them. Detroit’s bankruptcy was foretold by the decimating our middle class to fund China’s emergence.

Yet, just as was seen in the Arab Spring, it is the fringes of society that break first. While the whole of our middle class is having its life slowly drained, those poor souls on the outer edges, such as our citizens in the inner city of Detroit, are the ones whose life supply of economic blood is the thinnest. They die first.

Detroit is America’s problem to fix.

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Filed under American Governance, American Politics, Capitalism, China, City Planning, Class warfare, Full Employment, Jobs, Racism

Power has Corrupted of America’s Trade Deficit

g-037s-2Power is the drug that urges America’s elite to enslave America’s workers into borrowing $7 trillion dollars to buy foreign goods during the past decade while our robber barrons have idled our workforce. What corruption is this that is placidly accepted by our downtrodden citizens? Why do we accept the wealthy elite of our country stealing from the poor through trade deficits?

America’s trade policies have amounted to taxing the average family about $100,000 since 2000, reaching into the pockets of every American, pulling out thousands of dollars and giving them to America’s wealthy and their trading partners. That is the definition of power, raw and corrupt. Yet, through this slight of hand, our elite, including America’s federal politicians who bow to their whims, make it seem to the average American that the robbing of the middle and under class through trade deficits has been to our benefit!

Divine law starts with every man earning a living wage. Those with more talents and that can provide more to the community should earn more, yet all in America should start with a job that can feed their family, put a roof over their head, and shoes on their kids feet as they go off to school in safe neighborhoods. Instead, our robber barrons have seen fit to ensure that a third of Americans either do not work or are working poor while forcing our citizens to borrow from foreign governments while buying goods made in foreign countries by their citizens, not ours.

Power has corrupted our economy. Power has idled our workforce. Power has crippled our schools and filled our prisons. Power is the drug that deadens our elite to the plight of our citizens. Its tentacles reach throughout our institutions. Its poison weakens our communities. Its evil threatens the stability of our society. This imbalance of work, this idling of our nation is not a natural occurrence. It is a choice by our elite through the corruption of power, and it is an abomination of divine law.

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Filed under American Governance, American Schools, Class warfare, Free Trade, Full Employment, Jobs

1967 Divided Detroit Leadership Was Incapable of Reform

250px-Headquarters_of_GM_in_DetroitThe United States Congress might use Detroit as a gauge for peering into America’s future if it cannot look past its polarized ideologue stalemate. As Detroit went in the decade after the 1967 riot, so too will America if we cannot address our real issues together. Attempting to fix our problems within two separate political camps that stare past each other as if they do not exist will cause America to take the Detroit slide.

In 1967, African Americans’ vision for the city was one of finally obliterating the scars of racism, gaining access to jobs, housing, education, and political reforms. In 1967, White business and political leaders’ vision for Detroit was of deterring crime and stopping the economic slide through a revitalization of the downtown district. The great compromise that never occurred would have been to correct the social issues that caused the strife in the African American community while creating an environment for businesses and white Americans to return to the city.

Detroit was a city on the decline well before 1967. In the 1950s amidst the beginnings of white flight, it lost 840 manufacturing plants. By 1960, 12% of stores and 22% of houses in Detroit were vacant. 265,000 whites left the city in that decade alone. The 1967 riot certainly caused a blip in the exodus of whites, who had been leaving the city at 20,000 per year and for a period of two years the number elevated to 80,000 before dropping back to its long term trend line.

However, most importantly, the 1967 riot exposed the truth about Detroit. It was not the model city of racial progressiveness that Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh presented to the world as Detroit vied for the Olympics in 1965. The Detroit riot of 1967 spelled the end of Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh’s career. Once considered a potential star of presidential caliber, he instead divorced in 1968, finished out his mayoral term in 1970 and died of a heart attack at age 51 in 1979. His life was a symbol of the higher ideals of white America fettered by the blinders of institutional racism that would constrain progress for the next decades.

In response to the 1967 riot, Cavanaugh, Governor George Romney, and Joseph Hudson of Hudson Department Stores formed a coalition of business and civic leaders called “New Detroit” to identify needed changes for the city, including racial healing. While racial discussions were desperately needed for the Detroit’s future economic health, white business leaders could not be convinced, and instead they shunned New Detroit as an unworkable platform for economic issues due to what they considered radical black agendas. They splintered in 1970, and led by Henry Ford II, white business leaders formed the Detroit Renaissance Group.

In 1970, Mayor Roman Gribbs took office for one term. After being elected sheriff of the county in 1968, he ran for mayor in 1970 on an agenda of law and order and was narrowly elected by a 7,000 vote margin. Opposite of the character of New Detroit, he pushed crime interdiction programs like STRESS, Stop the Robberies, and Enjoy Safe Streets, which led to 17 police killings in 1971. In an era of police brutality, his tough on crime programs only seared the community further. Deterrence of crime is critical to revitalization of Detroit. Yet in 1970, a program to deter crime in a failing city already revolting of police brutality and without a systematic process of turning around the economy, was a program doomed to fail.

The program for turning around the city in 1970 fell on the newly formed Renaissance Group. Its stated mission was to “bring Detroit’s business community’s leadership and resources together to encourage and facilitate the physical and economic revitalization of Detroit and Southeast Michigan.” Two points about the mission are glaring:

1) Focused on structures in the business economy. In 1970, the group disconnected a riverfront consumer economy from the economic needs of the people of Detroit that would be better served by an economy based on production.

2) Included Southeast Michigan. Certainly the region was also impacted by the loss of the automobile industry, but it was a separate nation as far as the issues of Detroit were concerned.

Intended to revitalize downtown Detroit, a first focus of the group was the Renaissance Center, seven interconnected skyscrapers on the river. The concept was to build an enclosed environment for work and shopping that was isolated from crime to draw business downtown. Built for $350 million, it sold in 1996 to GM for $76 million after sustaining annual losses of $30 million, an unfortunate failure that cost Ford, one of the investors, $379 million.

While Detroit’s business leaders focused on buildings for downtown business, civic, and apartment use in hopes of revitalizing Detroit’s economy, it would be another decade before the Renaissance Group would start to develop a strategic plan that contained recommendations dealing with race relations, crime, jobs, education and economic development, a decade wasted in further polarized decline.

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Filed under American Governance, American Politics, Class warfare, Economic Crisis, Racism, social trajectory

Detroit’s 1967 Riot Militantly and Impatiently Surpassed Detroit’s 1943 Riot

detriots67-13_17aWhy was the riot of 1967 so much more volatile than 1943? Why did the Arab Spring occur in the countries that it did? There are countries that are just as poor as those that rose up. Why did these countries not rise up as well. The answer may lie on both sides of the eruption point.

On the one hand, there are countries such as China in which the average worker outside the special economic zones is as poor as those that participated in the Arab Spring. Yet in China, progress is being made and hope for a better tomorrow is real. On the other hand there are other countries as poor as Arab Spring participants such as Haiti in which no uprising occurred in which no hope and no way out of their dilemma is seen for the entire country and therefore the people frustratingly accept their fate.

Yet for the countries that participated in the Arab Spring, their young people understood their economies to have gotten worse after the implosion of 2008. They saw the inequities in their economies and the unfair and unequal treatment of their governments and recognized they must fight for change. It is the difference in knowledge of what could be and what is that caused the uprising.

Prior to Blacks making their migration North, they were stuck in a centuries old oppressive plantation system and had resigned to their fate of a terror filled life. Upon initially arriving in Cities of the North, while prejudice was high, freedoms were greater. As the years went by, some greater latitude was won, especially in the work place through the unions. Where initial jobs available in the cities were personal service jobs in small businesses. union jobs opened up paying more. Blacks slowly progressed from where very few had more skilled jobs to the point where WWII shortages meant that as many as half of Blacks had more skilled jobs, in line with white percentages.

They now had more income to spend and hope of a better life. Yet unlike those in China who can see the future changing before them, Blacks in Detroit at the end of WWII, saw just the opposite.Very little progress was being made. Their neighborhoods were being destroyed by the highway. Their community was being harassed by Detroit’s police. Their opportunity to spend their hard earned dollars on decent housing was being denied. Their request for access to good schools and hospitals went unanswered. They fit the pattern of the Arab Spring. They saw the promise of a better life but they could not see a path to get to it that wasn’t blocked at every turn by the institutions and white citizens of their community.

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After 1967, Detroit Would be Left Alone To Fend Off the Death Knell of Racism

1967 riotDetroit had 24 years to correct its glaring racial divide between riots. The Detroit Riot of 1967 began as a reaction to police brutality, reminiscent of the Los Angeles riots that would occur 24 years after Detroit’s 1967 riot. In Los Angeles, Rodney King would be brutally arrested by police officers who would subsequently be acquitted in Los Angeles courts, signaling a continuing institutional racism in America.

In 1967 Detroit, instead of it escalating from conflict between white and black youth as had occurred in 1943, this time the riot started when police broke up a party for a returning Viet Nam vet. What should have been a routine call turned into a bloody five day riot littered with gunfire.

The response of 1967 rioters was more militant with outrage than the 1943 riot. Instead of blacks just targeting white stores as in 1943, this time they destroyed beloved black owned businesses of the city as well. Instead of white mobs roaming into black neighborhoods and beating blacks, this time, blacks stood atop buildings and sniped with rifles at authorities that attempted to put out fires and to respond to scenes with EMS vehicles. 467 were injured in the riots. Instead of mostly blacks injured as in 1943, this time 167 of the injured were police officers, 83 were fire fighters, 17 were National Guard, 16 were federal police officers, and 3 were U.S. Army soldiers.

The response by police officers, known by the black community to be racially oppressive, was brutal as well. This time 43 rioters were killed, mostly black. This time, 7000 were arrested, mostly black. This time the federal troops responded by firing their weapons, killing 12 rioters. Tanks rolled. Machine guns fired. This time the riot continued on for five bloody days.

The escalation of violence seemed out of place to some for Detroit seemed a city racially mending, at least on the surface. Detroit had begun to deal with the institutional racism that sparked the last riot in 9143. The city had begun to reform the city’s police department. Blacks now had political representation and agency leaders. Black incomes had been steadily rising and a black middle class was emerging. The Mayor of Detroit had participated in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society city revival efforts and had brought millions back to invest in Detroit’s inner city.

Yet, the underlying causes of the 1967 riot remained the same as that in 1943, an unanswered call for justice. Police brutality, housing, and employment discrimination continued. Educational discrimination and segregation intensified. Frustrations had escalated over years of neglect. By 1967, militancy had replaced patience in the fight against the slow pace of reform in Detroit.

Blacks wanted what most Americans want, decent jobs and neighborhoods, and to be considered by the content of character and not the color of skin, as Dr. King had urged for the first time in his speech in Detroit. Yet, while blatant racism enforced by lynching was finally fading, violent racism had mutated into more sterile yet just as potent racism that terrorized the psyche of African Americans.

Institutional racism still infected Detroit society. Detroit hospital wards for instance were still segregated and mortality rates were higher in the black wards than in the white. Black schools were overcrowded and under funded. And FHA insurance ensured that whites could leave the city while FHA continued to trap blacks within through redlining.

New suburbs, made possible from FHA insurance, were free of the environmental racism of industrial toxins and blight that remained in black communities. And civic racism abounded in Detroit. Mo-town had a culture centered in the slums of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, communities with a history as old as the foundations of Detroit. Yet in the redevelopment of the motor city as the ideal community the automobile world, highways were built through the heart of these black communities, carving up their identities. Highways became cement corrals separating black slums from the sprawling suburbs escaping Detroit’s racial divide.

Detroit’s whites ran to the suburbs away from the city’s oppressive past, just as European superiority ran from its past across America. In the void, Detroit’s blacks became increasingly frustrated from what was left of the city.

Detroit’s industrial employment, which had bubbled higher and higher for two decades on the backs of two world wars, was absolutely destined to decline. Its myopia of industry centered on automobiles certainly had to dilute. Detroit would have to eventually live through an economic transformation from war industry and auto manufacturing to a more sustainable mixed economy. Yet, as whites escaped to the metro area surrounding Detroit, they brought that inevitable transformation with them, leaving Detroit to fend for itself.

Detroit was left with an increasingly distilled, lower socioeconomic class that would be left on the sidelines of economic reform. And as business became increasingly global, Detroit would become the city with the highest African American population, the highest unemployment, and the highest crime rate in America. As city officials searched for a way to turn around the Detroit, the path toward economic transformation would elude them because the city could not heal its racial divide.

The race riot of 1967 is touted as a milestone that cemented Detroit’s economic fate. That bigoted vision of Detroit is skewed poppycock. But the race riot of 1967 was indeed the milestone that challenged Detroit to finally reverse course from letting race divide it. Thus far, Detroit has failed to heed its mission.

Detroit can transform economically. It is a city with vitally important resources that can support an industrial mecca of the future. Yet that Promised Land will never return until factors of race are healed. Why must a community that has been oppressed since Detroit first became a city be the ones to initiate the healing? Well, for the most part, they are all that are left in the city. If it will be done at all, it must be the city that rises up now to do it.

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Can We Finally Reset the Starting Point For the Constitution to Protect All Americans?

battles-of-the-civil-war-10The Constitution was beautifully crafted to hold a society in balance yet to find compromise toward improving civilization. With the ratification of the Constitution, elites could live in peace with the masses. The common mand could hold dear the freedoms needed to pursue happiness. The wealth and property that each man held could be forever preserved from the tyranny of Government. Yet, The starting point of the nation was imbalanced for America began as a racially oppressive society of 1789. America’s beginning was not radically altered by its revolution to find a better starting point than that which contained slavery.

Instead, each societal improvement, each step forward, would have to painfully stem from 1789 America to improve the lives of citizens and chattel humans. By the Constitution’s design, minorities had vetos over the desires of the majorities. Slavery had been embodied in the Constitution, and slavery’s eradication could not be enforced on the South without affecting the balance of protections offered by the Constitution.

lnstead, a bloody, radical Constitutional reset of society’s starting point had to be constructed through a Civil War. We would begin again with all of the protections provided by the Constitution, yet this time all would be free men. Sadly for America, at the war’s end, the new starting point did not give African Americans the clean slate hoped for and paid dearly for by the loss of 600,000 souls, including sustainable voting rights and economic freedom to support their entrance into democracy. The new reset point that would be held in abeyance by the Constitution was a jim crow society that would oppress blacks for another 100 years.

The civil rights movement, including the sacrificial assassinations of its leaders, would reset the starting point once again. Yet this time, rather than confront a history of racism, whites would run to the suburbs, isolating blacks in urban plantations. This time, corporations would run to the corners of the earth escaping unions that clung to their hope of holding onto the few remaining middle class manufacturing jobs in a world a scarce of such labor opportunity.

America needs one more reset of the Constitution’s starting point, and we desperately need to get it right this time, for the cost of reset is enormous human suffering. This time, racial oppression must be resolved. This time, our economic system must secure jobs for all our citizens. How we deal with our inner cities will be a testament of America’s will to optimally reset the start of our Constitution for the modern era.

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The Kings of the Auto Industry’s Failure to Plan was a Plan to Fail

fordIn spite of terrible odds, there are those that rise above their circumstances to do great things. The same can be said for Detroit. Out of the slums come leaders of every profession that have excelled by their own merits. That means that even in Detroit’s inner city, there is a path to be found to make it. Just like Lewis and Clark, there are those that can take the right steps to avoid all the hazards of the journey and make it to their destination intact

However, take those same people that are put through that gauntlet and put them through a better upbringing and they most likely would still succeed. And with them, would succeed millions more that do not under the bitter circumstances of the inner city.

So when we saw businesses failing at 5 times the rate of normal business cycle turn downs in this last great recession, we can certainly say that the owners that made the decisions they made were responsible for their business failures, we can also say that 80% of those businesses that did fail would not have in a better environment that they did not have direct control over, same for those that lost their homes and jobs through the collapse. Under the environment, they made the decisions they thought best for their families and turned up way short.

I write to affect the global circumstances so that more can make it. The 68% of kids that sat in those classes expecting to learn the skills necessary to survive that didn’t make it because of all the support structures that failed them need something better than they are getting. The question is can we create a system solution that can turn around present circumstances and that can create better odds for future kids?The rules in Detroit were pervasively written in the institutions that governed the city, institutions run by the big three auto makers.

Every city has its elites, those few that have made it into the rarified air that makes them appear to themselves as gods. These are the ones that shift the economy, that pioneer its path before the masses tread on it.

I can imagine the CEOs of the big three auto manufacturers coming together at the Detroit Club in 1914 talking about the war and how they might prosper from it. Of course they expected that the windfall would be temporary so no provisions would be made for city planning to accept the hundreds of thousands of new workers and their families. No, everyone would sacrifice for the war effort and when the war was over, these wonderful immigrants and southern blacks would be persuaded to go back home.

The city was run by these captains of industry and their selections for who would run the wards. City planning was thus built upon the premise of greatest efficiency of industry as opposed to any livability factor. The city was growing exponentially and perhaps the chaos of growth could energize the police officers being deputized from southern cities for Detroit to handle the influx of blacks and Poles they thought.

As opposed to America’s growth, which climbed at a rate of 1.1% a year, Detroit’s population was growing at 4 times that rate. Certainly car production alone could not sustain such a growth rate as was occurring for military production. Certainly, the substandard housing that was going up at record pace wasn’t meant for the long haul, for no one would expect that after the war boom would come a depression followed by an even bigger war boom, in which Detroit would play a pivotal role.

After two big wars and an extended industrial war boom, Detroit could not have expected to ride on its past. But where was the planning? Was the only planning scarcity, and to let the rats abandon a sinking ship? Was the only planning to put a volatile mix of people into a beaker and to stir in the catalyst of fewer jobs?

This is why city planning ought to be left for those that consider all the people of a community as stakeholders in the city’s future, not just the chosen few who employ strategies to maximize short term goals, without considering it their responsibility to care for the community they have recruited as immigrants and migrants to do their bidding.

Here is a quick history of racially divided Detroit from it nascent auto days until the first big Detroit riot in 1943. It tells of industry drawing in masses of European immigrants, southern blacks and southern poor whites, and poorly preparing the city for them only to have racial prejudice surface and then finally explode in 1943.

Detroit Automobile Company August 5, 1899 – the first plant

Ford assembly line – starts the boom town and immigration

.1914 – Ford announces $5 a day pay – starts African American migration

Tension mounts in slums for housing and at factories for jobs between blacks and Poles

.1920s – rise of Detroit KKK membership to 20,000. KKK emphasizes racial segregation in housing

.1925 – During year, Racist Detroit police kill 40 blacks

Osian Sweets, a black man, kills a man in a mob attacking his new home in a white neighborhood. Goes on trial for murder and is eventually acquitted. In response, Detroit white neighborhoods pass restrictive “whites only” covenants.

Great Depression hits – Autoworkers unions organize

Klan clashes with the unions and the fades into background for awhile

.1940 – Franklin Roosevelt names Detroit as the Arsenal of Democracy, declaring the city to be strategic to winning the war.

.1941 – Executive Order 8802 – Roosevelt forbids work discrimination based on race

Detroit would need workers on a massive scale for the war effort so its demand for workers started the second great migration of African Americans North.

This massive influx of new labor brought Detroit, already in a housing shortage, to a boiling point.

Housing shortages and black shanty towns – Federal government builds 700 units at Sojourner Truth Housing Project to ease shortage amidst white protests

February 28, 1942 move in day ta Sojourner. White mob riots, KKK burns a cross, police tear gas and arrest 220 blacks. For two months, the city does nothing to allow blacks to move in or to protect them. Finally, they are allowed to move in.

Poor urban planning – government earmarks 17 billion for new war factories in Detroit but only 5 million for new housing in a city that was still short 12,000 units.

July 1942 – Life Magazine writes an article called “Detroit is Dynamite” where it tells the world how Detroit, the manufacturing bastion of hope for America, could not build if it continued to be so factious and bickering.
Migrants vs. Nativists
Blacks vs. Southern Whites
Protestants vs. Catholics
Communists vs. Conservatives
KKK vs. Blacks
Poles vs. Blacks for lowest paying jobs

.1943 – Efforts by Fair Employment Protection Committee to enforce fair labor practices result in several race strikes protesting blacks in the workplace. Many blamed the Klan for staging these strikes.

.1943 – Catholic Trade Unionists declare that a subterranean race war is raging in the city and will explode in violence if nothing is done to stop it.

City officials meet with police to plan for race riot

Hot summer of 1943 – people flock to parks.

Early June – a small brawl breaks out between Blacks and Whites in park and spills over to neighborhood before Police break it up.

Mid June – brawl breaks out at amusement park as whites try to chase blacks out of the park

June 20 – Brawls break out in parks, continue to resurface in the night. Groups roam downtown. Whites spread a false rumor that a black man raped and murdered a white woman on a bridge. Blacks spread a false rumor that whites threw a black woman and her baby off that bridge. Then the whites and blacks begin to riot in two separate parts of town.

Police stood aside and watched the white riots go on for 36 hours as white rioters dragged blacks from their cars and beat them. The Black riots centered on damaging white storefronts in black parts of town and in response the police used force on black rioters. 17 of 25 dead blacks from the riot were killed by police. 433 were injured. Police arrested 1,800, mostly black. Stories surfaced of savage police beatings and murders. Martial law was declared and federal troops were brought in to quell the riots.

This was the basis of institutional racism that was pervasive in Detroit as a result of its volatile mixture. Even more violent race riots would erupt again in 1967 demonstrating the lack of the city’s success in dealing with this destructive social issue.

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Racial Collisions in Low Wage Inner Cities Correlate to Fluctuating Murder Rates But Did They Cause the Fluctuations?

HomicideRatesIn a country that has not resolved its racial issues, and in which migration to the cities of immigrants and African Americans to compete for jobs and inadequate housing has risen and fallen, these events have correlated with America’s murder rates that have shifted dramatically over the decades.

The vast majority of murders have been committed by minorities of ages 18-24 in the poorest neighborhoods of larger cities. Homicide rates amongst this group approach 25 per 100,000 population. National homicide rates recently have dropped substantially from their highs of 10.2 to now 4.8 per 100,000.

Prior to the Civil War, beginning in the 1840s, America received a swell of immigrants due to the potato famine in Europe. After the Civil War, America began its Westward Railroad expansion. Railroads incentives to populate the lands around the rails and America’s Homesteading Act created the impetus for a peak in immigration to levels previously unseen at 327,000 per year. 86% came from northern Europe. Homicide rates varied across the country but were relatively small, at 0.3 to 0.8 per 100,000.

After a lull during the Long Depression, immigration increased again to fill the working ranks of the industrial era. In 1881, immigration rose to 525,000. After another lull for the 1893 depression, in the peak industrial era years prior to WW1, immigration swelled again to 891,000 per year. During the rise of the industrial era, 69% of immigrants came from central and southern Europe. After 1900 up until WWI, homicides nationally rose precipitously from 1 to 6 per 100,000. A majority of immigrants during this period were single young men seeking temporary employment.

During WWI, immigration then dropped to 276,000 right at a time when more manufacturing workers were needed for the war effort, creating the major draw for African Americans to venture north in what was called the Great Migration. During the war, the murder rate dropped to 4 per 100,000 as 800,000 African Americans migrated to northern cities to support the war effort, but then spiked to 7 per 100,000 as the troops came home.

In the 1920s, immigration rose to 412,000 a year. During the 1920s another 800 African Americans migrated north and prohibition was enacted. As labor wages dropped due to increased competition for jobs in the inner cities, and crimes associated with prohibition soared, the homicide rate climbed steadily to a national record of 9.7 per 100,000 not to be topped until the 1970s.

Immigration plummeted during the worldwide depression to only 50,000 per year and net migration halted. During the depression, the national murder rate dropped to 6 per 100,000.

As the young people left to fight WWII, the homicide rate in America dropped to 5 per 100,000 but then increased immediately after the war to 6.4 per 100,000.

After WWII, immigration steadily grew from 252,000 in 1947 to 950,000 in 1990. From WW1 through 1960, 46% came from the western hemisphere. After 1960, immigration shifted toward Asian countries. From a near term peak of 6.4 per 100,000, the murder rate dropped to a low of 4.5 in 1955 and climbed back slowly to 5 per 100,000 by 1965. Then it accelerated to 10.2 through the 1970s as many of our cities declined, and drug use increased.

During the recession of 1981, the homicide rate fell to 7.9 but then rose again to a peak of 9.8 per 100,000 by 1991. From the mid 1980s until the present, illegal alien population increased from 2.5 million to over 22 million by some estimates.

From that high, homicide rates have steadily fallen to lows not seen since the 1950s of 4.8 per 100,000. During this period, 816,000 illegal aliens that had committed criminal acts were removed from the United States. In addition, northern cities saw a reverse migration of African Americans of 3 million back to southern states. Also, the prison population swelled from 600,000 to 1.6 million with increased prison terms and a war on drugs.

While migration, immigration, and incarceration seem to correlate with murder rates, they do not explain what the causes are of these shifts. Dramatic shifts from 0.3 to 10.2 and back to 4.8 murders per 100,000 have occurred in the course of a century. Murder rates in our inner cities have been a significant factor of their demise. Understanding what causes murder rates to have risen and fallen could be a significant key in determining a system solution.

The “experts” are in disagreement as to the cause of the downward trend in murders suggesting the following as possible reasons:

1. Dropped lead from gasoline which reduced lead poisoning that causes aggressive behavior
2. Abortion of 50 million from potentially dysfunctional mothers eliminated criminal element
3. More criminals in prison and longer jail sentences for violent offenders
4. Baby boomers are getting older
5. Violent video games release aggression
6. More cops on the beat
7. Targeted stop and frisks
8. Stand your ground laws have frightened would be assailants
9. Increased poverty reduced mobility
10. Shifting drug use patterns from those associated with higher crime rates to prescription drug abuse
11. Increased youth social programs in the cities
12. Increased social safety nets
13. More people out of work and in their homes
14. Waning crack epidemic
15. Increased gun ownership
16. Better life saving techniques in hospitals
17. More investment in inner cities
18. Gun control laws enacted
19. Gun control laws are repealed
20. Fusion centers integrate law efforts
21. The Fed has curbed inflation
22. Cell phones put more witnesses on the scene
23. Gentrification
24. Wealth moved away from criminals
25. 18-24 age group decreased 20% in past two decades

Each “expert” has listed on or more of the reasons above, yet many of the experts contradict each other. Some, for instance, might hang their hat solely on better policing and give their reasoning. Others will state it has nothing to with policing or several other reasons but will suggest their ironclad reasons for the decline. Some provide statistical correlations to prove their point and others provide countering data. Interestingly, as a side note, very few will glaringly suggest anything about gun control laws.

The analyses remind me of the 2011 film starring Jonah Hill called Moneyball about how a young economics graduate, suddenly turned scout, applied statistical analysis to the sport of baseball and changed the game. He proved that a systems approach was better than all the scouting experts in the game who had their own subjective views and approaches.

Nonetheless, even though violent crime rates have dramatically reduced, they are still significantly higher than the base rates existing prior to the 20th century. And violent crime rates in inner cities are much higher than national averages, even if they too are also dropping precipitously. Since crime is a prime reason for flight and blight, understanding why it is so much higher in the inner city and understanding what push and pull strategies have been effective thus far might lead us to advance other strategies that could be successful if applied in conjunction. Yet, what might appear logical in isolation might have no basis in application.

For instance, the average street dope dealer makes less than minimum wage in the business and yet subjects himself to great dangers. Providing realistic hope over generations for real employment in productive jobs making $12 per hour might seem a logical solution in isolation. Yet, studies have suggested that merely adding jobs that pay more than drug pushing will not significantly alter a drug pushers behavior or crime even if they take the job. They simply alter their retail hours to supplement legitimate work.

The solution has to be systemwide to be effective. It might entail not only a rebalance of work opportunities, but of education, law enforcement, the drug war, social programs, financial access, city planning, and other equally valid components to reverse the trends of our cities.

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Filed under American Governance, Class warfare, Immigration, Jobs, Racism, social trajectory

Can We Even Imagine the Antebellum Atmosphere Bending that Forged the Generations to Come?

Reconstruction after the Civil War
There are men that have the epic power to create the global rules that govern my life. These men exist in the stillness above the turmoil of the street. I do not sense the economic levers they pull, only the gale force winds that bend my life from their having pull them. These few men can start the business cycle and they can end it. They can share the bounty of the collective efforts of hundreds of millions or they can hoard it. They can allow me to live in peace, or they can send my children to far off lands as instruments of American might. I acquiesce, as we all do, to their silent power and hope that my days on earth are relatively comforted by their will.

Yet they have the power to bend the atmosphere into a deathly nightmare if it meets their goals. It is this way now and it was this way in 1865. While I have contemplated why the macro-movements were chosen for my day and how the impacts have tossed about billions around the world, I cannot grasp the nightmare that the atmosphere benders chose for millions of common men, slaves and freedmen in the American 19th century. How could they have puppeteered such horrors?

I was a child in the era of Viet Nam, registered for the draft and somehow resolved my imaginations of my existence in a world of war. Yet, I was never forced to imagine how it must have felt to be born into oppression? How was it to be told that anything your skin touched was to be scorned by others as if the color of your skin was leprosy? How did it feel to know that even a grungy Woolworth lunch counter was above your station?

What must it have been like to be kept in an unjust paternal state? How could a man breathe when he could not even keep his kin from being ripped away from his protection at any moment. What must it have been like when the entire economic system would not even entertain allowing you to simply survive much less allow you to freely participate in it?

How could it be possible that simply being born, your entire existence would be found to be criminal, that your every movement was suspect? What could it possibly feel like to know that your father and your father’s father endured the same humiliation and hopelessness as you and that you would never be able to protect your son from the same torment.

Yet, at the tail of 200 years of such hopeless existence, imagine the hope that came from the rumors that Lincoln, this leader that supposedly was over all other leaders, had given you freedom with his words. I cannot conceive of the mixture of cautious hope and cynical disillusion that might bring. Yet freedmen soldiers were marching past you in uniform brandishing guns of emancipation. And your oppressors were desperate with fear. Could change be imminent?

I have seen a modern version of such change, witnessing those lifting ink-stained thumbs high from their first vote. I have seen spirits lifted in America when Barack Obama gave his first presidential victory speech. What must it have been like to see men that only a moment before had been slaves and children of slaves, now accepting the oaths of local office and even Congress? What would it have been like to be handed a plot of land and given the encouragement to toil on your newly owned land for your family’s posterity? I can only imagine the sheer joy and relief from pain those early days brought.

How then must it have been to have all this immediate progress be pulled back as if it never occurred? How must it have been to have men come to your door and tell you that the land you have improved for the past two years since the war ended must now be given back? What must have been the confused anguish to then be told that you must sign a year sharecropping contract under duress or face being sent to prison for vagrancy? What must it have felt like to be visited upon by local men under the cover of cowardly hoods that let you know that this temporary government would soon be gone and that you were under their thumb? What terror would it bring to witness neighbors regularly lynched by this terrorist group and to see that nothing was done by those in this temporary government to stop it?

How could it have been to then live the rest of your life having briefly tasted this freedom to then be thrust back into terror, submission, and hopelessness? Now seeing the Union Army leaving, the Freedman’s Bureau disbanding, and all semblances of support closing offices and agencies and returning North, what was it like to be left defenseless in the world created by these unseen men, these wealthy terrorists that designed the life that you must now endure?

Sitting here in my comfortable home, I still thought having endured the economic crisis of 2008, the world that our unseen atmosphere benders created for us, was a hardship. Yet, compared to the world that millions endured in America’s freedmen’s first tragic steps toward freedom, our inequitable world is all the more tolerable. Should it be now that we should continue to tolerate the aftermath of such terrorism as occurred in 1865? If we have the ability to at least imagine the multigenerational waves of aftermath that it wrought on our fellow citizens, and we have the will to end the blight, can we call on our modern silent atmosphere benders to finally resolve the destruction of the past in ways that benefit all?

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Filed under Class warfare, Racism, social trajectory

America’s First Warriors Against Terror Cry Out For Justice

gravesThroughout history, societies that have optimized order through organization of men, equipment, energy, resources, and technologies, have dominated commerce. Control of men, of the land they tilled, of armies, or slaves was the dominating motive force of wealth creation prior to the industrial era, when energy began to supplant man as the motive force of progress.

Prior to the Civil War, Slaves were the economic engine for America, and the driver of its economy. While the North had much of the industry of America, the South had cotton and four million slaves. Cotton made the Southern United States one of the four most prosperous economies in the world and northern industry, which was internationally uncompetitive, depended on trade with southern states.

To enforce trade, Northern Congressmen pushed tariffs through a Congress dominated by the North, since the North had two thirds of the population. Tariffs allowed the North to skim slave-derived cotton profits through interstate trade. The North depended on southern purchases and attempted to prevent war that would hurt both economies severely. Yet when the South seceded for reasons of tariffs and slavery, destruction of the South’s economy was inevitable.

The minimal physical infrastructure that existed in the South was devastated by the war. And human capital…40 percent of white males of war age were wounded or killed. The bonds held by wealthy southern landowners that had funded the war were now worthless. Congress increased tariffs even more punitively after the war, imposing reparation costs on the South. And the vast wealth of the South, its slaves, was emancipated without compensation to owners.

The Southern Elite had pinned their economic future on the plantation system. Southern farmland was poor soil for growing staple crops that thrived in the North and Midwest, and cotton was highly labor dependent. The success of the plantation strategy therefore relied on a grotesque caste system, which instilled in slaves that they were incapable of anything but their deprived existence. Now that the North had torn apart this caste paradigm, the Southern elites believed their very survival depended on once again entrapping their labor. They chose terror as their weapon.

The ensuing black codes were an oppressive start. Plantation Owners passed vagrancy laws to imprison former slaves who did not sign annual share cropping contracts. And freedmen that tried to leave the South could be pulled off the train and imprisoned for similar reasons. Anyone caught coming to the South to recruit Freedmen could be imprisoned unless, as an example, they purchased $25,000 recruitment licenses. More monstrously oppressive were the 4,500 lynchings that took place all over the South to send freedmen the signal that they were no longer free.

What had been 4,000 of the wealthiest men in the United States now dragged four million souls through constant terror and degradation to save what was left of their fortunes. And while the northern administrators initially fought back, Northern Congressmen ultimately decided that continued bondage was in the best interests of their constituents, ending Reconstruction.

Was the victor of the Civil War actually going to accept the outcome of Reconstruction as simply a means to reunite the states and to recommence commerce? Was this going to be the final resolution to the loss of 620,000 American lives? This political compromise of the wealthy powers meant that those soldiers who spilled blood to give an oppressed people the hope of a free American life, would as a ghostly choir now transfix on a distant future silently aggrieved.

Some say that Supreme Court decisions reflect more the slowly changing mores of America than an objective rendering of the Constitution. In 1883, when it ruled protection of ex slaves’ civil rights as unconstitutional, it supported pre-civil war racist views of both the South and North that allowed southern states to re-install oppressive control of ex-slaves.

For the next thirty years, the South and North would suspend racial justice while allowing real terror of lynch mobs to roam free. How would generations of injustice and poverty affect a subculture of righteous anger within the African American community? How would it ultimately impact our inner cities?

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Filed under American Politics, Class warfare, Racism, Uncategorized, War