Color me skeptical
The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette will file papework in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit to defend state constitutional protections of the pensions of city retirees.
Invoking his role as “the people’s attorney,” Schuette said he will file in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit on Monday to intervene in the city’s federal bankruptcy proceedings, even after his office opposed efforts in a state court earlier this month to halt the bankruptcy filing in challenges brought by pensioners and lawyers for the city’s pension funds.
“The City of Detroit’s bankruptcy will cause even greater hardship for many people in southeast Michigan who are already struggling,” Schuette said.
Schuette said he will intervene “on behalf of southeast Michigan pensioners who may be at risk of losing their hard-earned benefits,” in accordance with his responsibility as attorney general to defend the Michigan Constitution.
The Lansing State Journal has more from Schuette:
Detroit’s $20 billion indebtedness is simply staggering. Equally staggering is the financial uncertainty of pension benefits relied upon by Michigan seniors living on fixed incomes and anticipating a safe and secure retirement after a lifetime of work. Retirees may face a potential financial crisis not of their own making, possibly a result of pension fund mismanagement.
You’ll have to pardon my skepticism at Bill Schuette’s newfound role as “the people’s attorney”. Here are a few examples in the recent past when Schuette has been anything BUT a defender of “the people”:
- Interfered with a citizen recall of Republican Paul Scott of Grand Blanc in a move the Detroit Free Press called “clumsy and nakedly partisan”.
- Signed on to a federal lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He described the effort to ensure more Americans have health care coverage as “an unprecedented power grab” and says it “ends limitations on federal powers”.
- Played a role in defending Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger and Democrat-turned-Republican Roy Schmidt when the two engaged in outrageous campaign fraud.
- Acted to resurrect the zombie Emergency Manager law PA 72 when voters sent the existing law, PA 4, which replaced to the dustbin of history in the 2012 election.
- Went to court to prevent a citizen’s ballot initiative to put in place constitutional protections on collective bargaining in 2012, a move that was struck down by the courts.
- Filed a lawsuit to prevent state workers from receiving domestic partnership benefits, a clear attack on Michiganders in same-sex partnerships.
- Took part in a lawsuit to prevent requiring contraceptive coverage by health insurance policies filed by far right religious conservative Tom Monaghan who calls contraception “gravely immoral”.
Given that illustrious history during his tenure as Michigan’s Attorney General, there’s little to make me believe he will truly be an honest defender for Detroit city retirees as the city’s bankruptcy process plays out. Given that he’s up for reelection next year, his sudden interest in “the people” strikes me a strictly political move.
Between this and the naming of a conservative Republican and member of the libertarian Federalist Society, Gerald Rosen as mediator in the bankruptcy proceedings, it’s beginning to look an awful lot like this process is being rigged from the start.
It remains to be seen if Bill Schuette is the fierce advocate these people need as their interests, pensions worth only about $20,000 a year but that are the only thing keeping these retirees off of the public dole, are pitted against the high-paid attorneys for the banks and insurance companies that hold most of Detroit’s current debt.
We’ll be watching.
UPDATE: Mark Totten, a Democrat who has been running a vigorous pre-campaign to be the Democratic nominee for Attorney General in 2014, issued the following statement this morning after I posted this which largely agrees with my comments here:
We did it! Early last week I went on the attack — talk radio, social media, the major news outlets — exposing Bill Schuette for trying to bypass the Michigan Constitution and put big banks before retired firefighters, cops, and other retirees in Detroit. The public and media response was overwhelming. And guess what? By Saturday morning, Schuette reversed his position!
I’m glad Schuette admitted he was wrong, but he still needs to explain why he fast-tracked efforts to bypass the Michigan Constitution and defend Snyder’s scheme to put big banks before retirees.
It’s good he’s saying retirees need to be defended, but words only matter so much. We’re known by our fruits. As I said in the Detroit News story on my attack and Schuette’s reversal, “the question now is whether Schuette will strongly advocate for retirees, oppose the governor and make sure these seniors get paid first.”
I started this campaign because I believed we could make a difference. Only a month in and we’ve already seen a big one . . . and we’re just getting started!
Here’s my press release from today outlining three steps Schuette must take to demonstrate his change of course is more than just words.
[Image credit: Aaron J. Baylis | Wikimedia Commons]