Thursday, May 28, 2009

The People's Perspective on the Economic Meltdown in Detroit, Part 1

Once again, I was not invited to this week's Detroit Chamber of Commerce's annual Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island. That's all right because I WAS invited to Detroit's Cobo Hall last Saturday to attend the townhall discussion titled, "Meltdown in Detroit: Economic Collapse, a People's Plan for Recovery." It was open to the public; everyone was invited.

Townhall organizers -- led by The Nation magazine -- rounded up an impressive group of panelists to address Detroit's economic meltdown from the perspective of "putting the needs of workers and citizens (not bankers and stock market speculators) at the center of the conversation." How could I miss such an opportunity? So I interrupted my Memorial Weekend fun at the Lansing Cristo Rey festival, grabbed my recording gear, and drove to Detroit.

I am reporting this in two parts as panel moderator John Nichols of The Nation basically went around the panel twice to get the varying perspectives of the six panelists. Each participant spoke briefly during each round. Below are links to Nichols' first pass through the panel. Representative John Conyers made opening remarks and Nichols gave an introduction about the event -- portions of both are provided here, as well. I will publish the recordings of round two in a couple of days.

So now here is your invitation to the townhall discussion on the economic meltdown in Detroit:

Opening Remarks 
by Representative John Conyers (D-Detroit)
For the second week in a row (see my recording from the Michigan Policy Summit), Conyers gives a harsh critique of the makeup of President Obama's administration and, this time, adds commentary on the auto bailout. Watch the video here.

Introduction by John Nichols of The Nation
Nichols, a political writer and author, served as the panel moderator. Here he answers the the question, "How come The Nation is going to Detroit to talk about the economic meltdown?"

First Panelist: Economist Robert Pollin
Robert Pollin, co-director of Political Economy Research Institute and Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, answers the opening question, "What went wrong? Why is this economy so sick?" Click here.

Second Panelist: Author/Activist Barbara Ehrenreich
Best selling author, social commentator, author/activist Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the fundamental, underlying problems with the economy. Click here.

Third Panelist: Union Organizer/Detroit Activist
Elena Herrada
Elena Herrada is a Detroit activist, union organizer, and founder of Central Obrero, a Latino workers center. She is asked, "Is it all the immigrants fault?" and talks about "this economy and what it means to people who actually believe what is written on the Statue of Liberty." Click here.

Fourth Panelist: Detroit Activist Grace Lee Boggs
Author and long-time Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs, at 94 years of age, answers the question, "Why is Detroit so important?" Click here.

Fifth Panelist: Detroit City Council Member 
JoAnn Watson
Detroit City Council Member JoAnn Watson is asked, "How are you going to rebuild Detroit?" and she talks about a "Marshall Plan" for Detroit. Click here.

Sixth Panelist: Union Organizer/Activist Diane Feeley
Union organizer, activist, and retiree Dianne Feeley answers the question, "What's a 'green economy,' how do we get there, and what does it mean for Detroit?" Click here.

Watch out for part two of this report on the townhall discussion from Detroit.

-- Rico Thomas Rico

Author/Activist Barbara Ehrenreich talking
in Detroit about the Economic Meltdown

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