Don’t look now, kids; but while you were laughing at the irony of the same Democrats who ignored the bloodcurdling murder of Baby Antonio Santiago gathering to demand “justice” for Trayvon Martin, Detroit provided one of the greatest “teachable moments” in American history. Despite enjoying the better part of a century’s worth of compassionate, caring and community organized leadership by the best Democrats money could satisfy — in combination with a primary industrial base shot through with the very soul of Big Labor — Detroit skidded through the safety cones of taxpayer-funded bailouts and slammed back into the bridge abutment of bankruptcy.
And let’s be clear about this: The Motor City isn’t dying. It’s dead. Sure, there are still residents skulking around the once-proud burg; but census figures show that their numbers are nearly 60 percent lower than they were a half-century ago. What remains is an urban zombie, a hollow-eyed corpse shuffling along in a mindless search for taxpayer funds.
But this isn’t news. Detroit’s demise didn’t sneak up from behind us while we were distracted by exploding Chevy Volts. Actually, in a sense, it did. We were told that Detroit had put its troubles in the rear view mirror. Thanks to a government takeover led by President Barack Obama, the worthless executives were expunged from the model line like Pontiac Azteks. In their place, even more worthless bureaucrats whose private-sector experience extended to coffee with the Undersecretary of Commerce’s scheduler joined hands with Big Labor to continue churning out the mind-numbingly depressing fleet cars that combine none of the competitors’ pizzazz with none of their quality control. Case in point: Pre-bailout, the Chevy Malibu versus the Toyota Camry. Post-bailout, the Chevy Malibu versus the Toyota Camry.
In truth, Detroit’s downward spiral began decades ago. Following the post-World War II boom; the Nation’s industries underwent an inevitable downturn. Since the Federal government had yet to get into the “saving union thugs from their own incompetence” business, companies like Packard shuttered their plants. Not long afterward, as the city reeled from the economic blow, a police raid of an illegal speakeasy so enraged the patrons that they started a race riot, which would ultimately hold the “burning down our own city” title until South Central Los Angeles claimed it a quarter century later. Not only did damages exceed $80 million (about $560 million in 2013 dollars); but they sent 2,500 businesses to “quitsville,” 43 people to the morgue and a huge portion of the productive population to the suburbs. Universally respected economist Thomas Sowell noted:
Before the ghetto riot of 1967, Detroit’s black population had the highest rate of home-ownership of any black urban population in the country, and their unemployment rate was just 3.4 percent. It was not despair that fueled the riot. It was the riot which marked the beginning of the decline of Detroit to its current state of despair.
Following the riots, an oil crunch took its toll. The auto industry, plagued by Big Labor attacks since the 40s, responded to rising gas prices with a series of incredibly awful automobiles and incredibly bad concessions to the unions. After GM essentially launched the Japanese import market with horrendous cars like the Vega, the United Auto Workers actually managed to exact the infamous GM jobs bank, a program in which laid-off workers were paid nearly full salary and benefits to not work. Over the next few decades, the jobs bank cost GM just less than $1 billion per year.
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While the city’s major employers desperately tried to keep their heads above water despite the unions’ attempts to drown them, the remaining denizens of Detroit decided to salt the fields they had so badly plowed under in 1967. Given the choice to elect redoubtable stewards of the public trust, the Motor City’s voters elected kleptocrats like Kwame Kilpatrick — twice.
Bad planning, bad production, bad employees, bad politicians and bad people took control of a city named Detroit. By the time they were through with it, Detroit was the city we see now: Democratted to death.