1. From the Associated Press, November 21, 2009 (By Jeff Karoub):
“DETROIT — Berry Gordy founded what would become Motown Records a half-century ago with an $ 800 dollar loan. Today, that would get you two tickets with a bit to spare to the Motown 50 Golden Gala.
“For $ 200 more, you can attend a VIP event and a swanky party afterward.
“The event is set for downtown Detroit Saturday, with a scheduled appearance by Gordy and planned performances by Aretha Franklin, The Temptations and duet partners Stevie Wonder and Kid Rock.
“The high-wattage night is a fundraiser for the Motown Historical Museum —- the original site of Motown Records Corp. — and tickets start at $ 350 apiece. A ticket that includes the pre-gala VIP reception and ‘Afterglow’ party costs $ 1,000.
“The gala is a regular event for the museum but it’s taking a higher profile this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the label’s founding …”
2. From The New York Times, November 21, 2009 (By Bob Herbert):
“DETROIT — An American Catastrophe – In many ways it’s like a ghost town. It’s eerily quiet. Driving around in the middle of the afternoon, in a city that was once among the most productive on the planet, you see very little traffic, minimal commercial activity, hardly any pedestrians.
“What you’ll see are endless acres of urban ruin, block after block and mile after mile of empty and rotting office buildings, storefronts, hotels, apartment buildings and private homes. It’s a scene of devastation and disintegration that stuns the mind, a major American city that still is home to 900,000 people but which looks at times like a cross between postwar Berlin and the ruin of an ancient civilization.
“Detroit was the arsenal of democracy in World War II and the incubator of the American middle class. It was the city that taught mass production to the rest of the world. It was a place that made cars, trucks and other tangible products, not derivatives. And it was the architect of the quintessentially American idea of putting people to work and paying them a decent wage. It’s frightening to think seriously about what we’ve allowed to happen to this and what is now happening to the middle class and the American economy as a whole …
“Detroit and its environs are suffering the agonies of the economic damned because of policies, crafted at the highest national and corporate levels, that resulted in the implosion of crucially important components of America’s manufacturing base. Those decisions have had a profound effect on the fortunes not just of Detroit, or even Michigan, but the entire U.S. economy …
“The idea that the fallout from the wrongheaded economic concepts of the past 30 or 40 years could be contained, with the damage limited to the increasingly troubled urban areas while sparing prosperous suburbia, has now proved as phony as Bernie Madoff’s fortune. Americans, whether they live in big cities, suburban towns or rural areas, need jobs, and when those jobs are eliminated (for whatever reasons – technological advances, globalization) without being replaced, the national economy is guaranteed at some point to hit a wall …
“We need a revitalized industrial policy, including the creation of whole new industries, if American families are to prosper in the coming decades. If there is any sense of urgency in the hearts and minds of our corporate and government leaders, I’ve missed it.”
Such a contrast. But it’s typical of the American way … that ever-present “Hooray for me and to hell with you” mindset. In what is unquestionably the nation’s most impoverished city, an elite group is paying hundreds of dollars to attend the “Motown 50 Golden Gala”, while most of Detroit’s 900,000 hungry residents will be on the outside looking in.
The gala is being called a “fundraiser”, and that term, of course, should be enough to justify the occasion. The funds being raised, however, are not being directed to the needy but to the Motown Historical Museum. Let the needy line up at the local food kitchens. “Let ‘em eat cake”, as someone is reported to have said.
The behavior of the Detroit elite mirrors the actions and the attitudes of our officials in the nation’s capital, and this disdain on the part of our legislators is noted by Mr. Herbert in his final remark:
“If there is any sense of urgency about this in the hearts and minds of our corporate and government leaders, I’ve missed it.” Not likely. Any sense of urgency would certainly have been reported in the pages of The New York Times and would not have escaped the attention of the astute Mr. Herbert.
He is well aware that the interests of the elite – Detroit’s as well as Washington’s – does not coincide with the needs of the majority, and only when our national economy absolutely hits the wall will a sense of urgency be evident.
Mr. Herbert has stated repeatedly in his columns, and he is once again emphasizing:
• “We need a revitalized industrial policy …” [and revitalized shipyards would be the perfect way to initiate that policy.]
• “… including the creation of whole new industries …” [Shipbuilding would be a whole new industry for us because we shut it down completely years and years ago.]
• “ … if American families are to prosper in the coming decades.” [Or to be brutally frank, if American families are to “survive” in the coming decades.]
But we’ve been here before. It was the elite against the not-so-elite back in the ‘30s. Then, as now, we lived with an unequal distribution of wealth, widespread unemployment, and greedy stock market manipulation. And now, as then, we’re facing the prospect of economic survival. FDR’s shipbuilding programs brought an end to the Great Depression. We needed to create jobs back then and shipbuilding provided those jobs . So we built ships. We need to build ships again.