A tale of two Detroits. Feel free to decide which version reflects reality as it’s commonly understood:
If your inheritance includes the fruits of visionaries like Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, and the Dodge brothers, you can coast for a long time, and then decline incrementally, and then less incrementally, and then catastrophically, until what’s left is, as the city’s bankruptcy petition puts it, “structurally unsound and in danger of collapse.” There is a great deal of ruin in advanced societies, but even in Detroit it took only six decades.
“Structurally unsound and in danger of collapse”: Hold that thought. Like Detroit, America has unfunded liabilities, to the tune of $220 trillion, according to the economist Laurence Kotlikoff. Like Detroit, it’s cosseting the government class and expanding the dependency class, to the point where its bipartisan “immigration reform” actively recruits 50–60 million low-skilled chain migrants. Like Detroit, America’s governing institutions are increasingly the corrupt enforcers of a one-party state — the IRS and Eric Holder’s amusingly misnamed Department of Justice being only the most obvious examples. Like Detroit, America is bifurcating into the class of “community organizers” and the unfortunate denizens of the communities so organized.
The one good thing that could come out of bankruptcy is if those public-sector pensions are cut and government workers forced to learn what happens when, as National Review’s Kevin Williamson puts it, a parasite outgrows its host.
— Mark Steyn, “The Downfall of Detroit: It took only six decades of ‘progressive’ policies to bring a great city to its knees.”
We can talk about the microstory of Detroit, but it seems to me that Detroit, as always, is standing for all kinds of things about America. In the case of Detroit, the reason that the tax base has become so small is because a loss of population, right? So folks out, they are not there to pay the taxes on the homes and the kind of deterioration is what you see in the numbers you’ve suggested. But this lack of tax base is also exactly the kind of thing that many Republicans would impose on us, even when our cities have sufficient populations, even when our communities have sufficient populations. This is what it looks like when government is small enough to drown in your bathtub, and it is not a pretty picture.
As for the visionary entrepreneurs who put Detroit on the map as America’s manufacturing base for first automobiles, and then for building the machines that helped America win World War II, Harris-Perry expressed her thoughts on that topic last year.
As for another tale of two Detroits, “Celebrity Divorce Notes: Detroit’s Bankrupt, But Michael Moore’s Just Fine,” Roger L. Simon writes today.