The Summer’s Best Fiction: Progressives’ Detroit Post Mortem

The kiddies are going back to school all over this great land but it is still officially summertime on the calendar. If you haven’t gotten as much beach reading done as you would have liked to, I’ve got some works of extraordinary fiction for you to peruse, but only if you’re a big fan of the fantasy genre. 

As we have uncomfortably witnessed the once great city of Detroit descend into Third World status, most objective observers have noticed a direct connection between the half century long dominance of the Big Labor/Democrat machine in the city’s governance and its financial ruin.

Then there is the take of the progressive fringe that dominates modern American media and the Democrat party. And nowhere is this detachment from reality more manifest in all its “Get me a bib and my nurse!” glory than in the pages of the New York Times

Naturally, the Nobel Laureate who makes Barack Obama look worthy got it all rolling. 

After some perfunctory finger-wagging about debt and deficits (something he does in his sleep, and to neighborhood pets who wander by), Professor Paul wandered into a lecture about public pensions, apparently completely unaware that California is still in the US

What is the conclusion that the former Enron lackey comes to in this drunken Econ 101 class? 

So was Detroit just uniquely irresponsible? Again, no. Detroit does seem to have had especially bad governance, but for the most part the city was just an innocent victim of market forces.

Unwittingly, Krugman is closer to the truth than he probably wanted to be. He admits that Detroit was governed badly but this doesn’t constitute something unique-true, as this same formula for disaster is being repeated at the state and local levels in Democrat dominated places all over America (again-my home state California or, if you prefer “the seasons”, see Illinois). 

But ignore all of that bad governance because market forces or something. 

Poof-the Democrats are absolved!

Once Krugman gets this kind of ball rolling we can usually expect a reinforcing drumbeat across various media and the Detroit story has been no exception. Most have merely ignored the overwhelming Democrat influence in Detroit but MSNBC‘s less stable version of Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, managed to blame “Republican parasites” for the city’s travails. There were similar predictable “Pay no attention to that donkey behind the curtain” screeds from almost every lefty blog as well. 

As always, however, the heavy lifting is being done by the Times. This past weekend, yet another progressive du jour in the Opinion pages teed up a gem titled The Wrong Lesson From Detroit’s Bankruptcy. It’s more of the same cotton candy progressive political philosophy: a lot of words that they think are making points but are really just filling space. 

So much is packed into the dramatic event of Detroit’s fall — the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history — that it’s worth taking a pause to see what it says about our changing economy and society, and what it portends for our future.

Economy, society, fall fashion…anything but the politics of the people who were in power there for 50+ years. It should also be noted that Detroit’s tumble into economic oblivion can only be considered a “dramatic event” if you are a progressive who is drinking the hard stuff.

For breakfast. 

So what led to all this “drama”?

Failures of national and local policy are by now well known: underinvestment in infrastructure and public services, geographic isolation that has marginalized poor and African-American communities in the Rust Belt, intergenerational poverty that has stymied equality of opportunity and the privileging of moneyed interests (like those of corporate executives and financial services companies) over those of workers.

Here we go into boilerplate far-left territory. Following in the “communism has just never be done right” tradition, progressives will always tell you that government fails only when it doesn’t spend enough on this or that (Krugman is especially fond of doing this). Generally, they begin barking “Infrastructure!” or “Education!” like trained seals when the cries for a bigger money train are sent up. As Detroit’s teachers were doing rather well for a broke city, it had to be the former. For the moment, anyway. 

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Give him temporary construction work and you can usually keep him employed just long enough to vote for you in the next election.

There is plenty of complaining about the fact that everything isn’t equal for everyone everywhere at once. Yes, in the minds of the far lefties, this is still an achievable thing. And what surely is considered a party foul by the other Times opinion writers, there is some deviation from Krugman.

We didn’t just let the market run its course. We made an active choice to embrace short-term profits and large-scale inefficiency.

So…not market forces? Whatever will we do to get the hive mind buzzing in harmony again?!?!? Return to the mantra, of course, this time in the proper order:

And on the national level, we need policies — investment in education, training and infrastructure

Any discussion of Detroit’s problems that doesn’t begin with the iron-handed Democrat rule (Coleman Young was mayor for twenty years-that’s a machine) and the unhealthy relationship with Big Labor is a pile of disingenuous garbage. Yes, there are regional factors and the changing role of manufacturing in America over the past several decades must be considered but can hardly be given the majority of the blame.

Cities dependent upon a single industry can reinvent themselves in a rather short time if that industry declines. Pittsburgh is less than three hundred miles from Detroit and has done this rather nicely. 

Unfortunately, cities that won’t admit to what got them in trouble in the first place aren’t going to be resurrected any time soon. The people making excuses for them are helping delay any real possibility of a thoughtful, well-planned emergence from the financial ashes.