Faced with a $327 million budget deficit, more than $14 billion in long-term debt and persistent cash flow issues, Detroit inches closer to becoming the largest U.S. city to have state government take control of its finances.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appears poised to do just that, having already declared a financial emergency in the city.
As we witness what may be the final death throes of a once-great American city, the birthplace of the automotive industry and Motown, how is it that such calamity can occur with so little fanfare?
Once the fifth-largest city in America, the “Motor City” peaked in population in1950, when 1.85 million residents called Detroit home. That number has been in a free-fall ever since. By 2010, its population had plummeted 25 percent from 2000, to 713,777 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Even more alarming is the flight of white residents, who represented 83.5 percent of Detroit’s population in 1950, but had dwindled to just 55,604 by 2010, leaving the city 82 percent black. That’s a complete reversal in the black-to-white ratio from 60 years earlier.
While the trend was already evident, it became even more so after the 1967 race riot that engulfed the city, ending in 43 deaths, 467 injuries, 7,200 arrests and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed.
With Detroit experiencing the highest net migration rate of America’s 200 largest metropolitan areas, urban blight has overtaken entire neighborhoods. It’s now estimated that one-third of the city is either vacant or dilapidated. The median price for a home is $9,000, with some selling as low as $100, Business Insider reported.
You can imagine what this decay means for quality of life there. Unemployment remains high, and 47 percent of residents are “functionally illiterate,” according to a 2011 Detroit Regional Workforce report. Detroit’s violent crime rate is the highest in the country, with 11 times more homicides last year than in New York.
The despair is so bad, Forbes gave Detroit the top spot in its 2013 ranking of “America’s Most Miserable Cities.”
In 1950, Detroit claimed America’s highest per-capita income. Today, it is the nation’s second-poorest major city, just after Cleveland, according to the Census Bureau. The city’s debt rating was relegated to junk status long ago.
Then there’s the stink of corruption. Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted last month of racketeering conspiracy, extortion and filing false tax returns. Monica Conyers, a former city councilwoman and the wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, pleaded guilty in 2009 to conspiring to commit bribery and was sentenced to 37 months in prison.
The misery goes on and on, but how is it possible that all this escapes notice across the rest of America?
The short answer: progressive policy.
With the last Republican mayor’s tenure ending in 1962, one might think Detroit would be a shining example of the possibilities of progressive economic, labor and education policy. It should be a model of what lies in store for America, if we just shut our eyes to all we know to be true and listen to the song of the liberal siren.
In reality, that is exactly what it is, a song.
In many ways, Detroit is the end result of President Barack Obama’s economic and social belief system.
The city has passed an ordinance that mandates a “living wage” — we are hearing more and more about this from progressives, along with mandatory paid sick leave — and its minimum wage is more than $2 above the federal minimum wage, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Still, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in January ranked Detroit’s unemployment the highest in the nation among the largest 49 metropolitan areas.
And despite spending more than $2,000 more per pupil than the national average, Detroit Public Schools graduates just 59 percent of high school students – and a paltry number of those graduates are ready for college, according to government data.
How is it that all this misery is not leading the national news every day? Do you recall hearing Obama even mention Detroit’s failures once?
The truth is a negligent media is reluctant to expose the left’s failed progressive policies, knowing the truth may very well hurt Democratic candidates at the ballot box.
But the American people are voting with their feet: Many of the major U.S. cities with significant declines in population are in the Democratic-controlled Rust Belt — cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Dayton, Ohio.
If the mainstream media refuses to report it, we will, because we know it’s just the tip of a sinking iceberg.
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