Detroit, a city that filed for bankruptcy a couple years ago, has shut off water to poor residents who have not paid their water bills.
The bankruptcy was caused by many factors. White flight was one: the retreat of the wealthy to suburban areas, leaving behind only poor minorities as a tax base. The automation of the auto industry, the end of a huge source of employment for the people, was a blow. But that didn’t make the bankruptcy inevitable. The city government can take much responsibility, from mismanaging pension funds for city workers to wasting tens of millions of dollars by not cutting off water to foreclosed, abandoned homes. The city has not sufficiently scaled back its utilities system, despite losing a million people. The budget was unbalanced and massive debts incurred. And the city is still going to spend $444 million on a new hockey stadium, while poor black residents who had their water shut off because they could not pay their bills go thirsty. This is madness.
Of course funds are needed to maintain the city’s water system, but seeing how taxpayer money seems to be available for the Red Wings but not the poor, what is truly needed in the long run is participatory budgeting, the establishment of direct democracy, the end of corporate power in city government, the immediate recall of corrupt politicians, and so forth. What’s needed is socialism.
Detroit’s water crisis reveals the absurdity of capitalism (and government services that operate in a capitalistic manner), where purchasing power determines who gets access to goods and services. Those with no money have no access to healthcare, housing, food, water. There are really only two solutions if we don’t want people dying of thirst, preventable diseases, etc. Either A) establish the high minimum wage and guaranteed employment through public work programs or B) offer free water, healthcare, education, etc. funded by progressive taxes. Either one, or a mix of both, could be called socialism.
People either need the purchasing power to buy goods and services themselves or such things must be subsidized or offered as free human rights. Under free market capitalism we get neither.