Bankrupt Detroit Will Survive the Wolves Howling at its Door

Categories: Schutze

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
Ah, Detroit. This morning, saddened by the bleak news of bankruptcy and shame, I pulled from the shelf my worn copy of a book of Detroit legends and re-read my favorite of all, the story of the Loup Garou.

French 17th century settlers on the shores of Lake St. Clair in the area that is now Grosse Pointe (Canada at the time), believed in a very French werewolf called the Loup Garou, a creature with the body of a man, head of a wolf, long tail and hideous claws and fangs. The Loup Garou came out of the forest to steal children, especially daughters, of course, but he also had a fondness for pinching people's clothing and then modeling the latest fashions from afar.

"In his hand he held a cane, which he twisted in a nonchalant manner. He was a fair caricature of a Parisian dandy."

Wouldn't you know.

The moral of the story is a little obscure for people of non-Gallic heritage. The one time the settlers came close to trapping the monster by cornering him on a boulder in the lake, he summoned a giant catfish and disappeared into its gaping mouth. My book of legends concludes: "To this day, no Canadian will eat catfish."

So, horror, fashion and gastronomy, all in one legend. Somehow that's Detroit for me -- a city with a heritage ancient by North American standards, put where it is for reasons that far pre-date the auto industry, a survivor of plagues, fires and ravages that modern man cannot even imagine, but always with style.

The modern legend that I know to be absolutely untrue is that the current dismal fate of the city is driven entirely by the vicissitudes of the auto industry. What that ignores is that during the boom cycles of the industry, Detroit has boomed with the best of them -- just not in Detroit. If you had visited the suburban ring in Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston, Oakland and Macomb Counties in the 1990s, you would have seen some of the nation's most affluent enclaves as well as huge expanses of solid middle-class settlement.

Loup-garou.jpg
The Smithsonian
Detroit's been had before.
The auto industry began seriously decamping to the suburbs by the 1980s. But given the politics of the region and especially the racial overtones, the auto companies just never announced they were moving. They slipped their facilities out of town one by one, like Marx brothers dodging an unpaid hotel bill by walking in and out with multiple suits on their backs.

It was Detroit proper that was on its ass, and that began to happen immediately after the 1967 race riot, or uprising, as some people there still call it -- a cataclysm from which the city has never recovered. In the 1970s when I lived in downtown Detroit but often went to Oakland County to visit my parents, people out there verbally assaulted me for living in the city. They spoke with a bitterness I might have expected of Cuban exiles in Miami, and in fact they, like the Cubans, were people who had been pushed off their own turf by violence and fear. People don't take well to that, and they do not forget.

But I also understood the riot. When I was a police reporter there, Detroit was already really a black city, but the police force was still more than 90 percent white, and many of those cops, especially the younger ones, lived way outside the city in the boondocks. I covered police shooting after police shooting. A young black male motorist stopped for a bad taillight almost had to hold his breath and drop to his knees to avoid getting shot by the cops.

Finally I felt I saw the underlying pattern. It wasn't that those young white hick-town cops set out at the beginning of every watch wanting to shoot somebody. It was more that they were culturally and viscerally terrified of young black men, couldn't read them at all to know which ones were trouble and which ones were just black, and whenever they were in doubt they felt they had a license to shoot. The George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin parallels today are chilling. Show me one instance in the ancient history of humankind where that kind of violent oppression has not eventually collapsed into chaos. It's no way to run a city.

And yet now, even in the midst of financial ruin, Detroit manages to have incredible flair. It draws young artists and creative people from all over the world. The midtown area of Detroit is so hot you can't find an apartment. The Greektown/riverfront area booms.

It's fine to say, "Who cares for flair if you're bankrupt?" But all that shows is that you're not French. Detroit's been there for more than three centuries. It's not going to jump in a catfish's mouth and disappear. The monster does that.


My Voice Nation Help
73 comments
joseph
joseph

Older countries are full of cities that flourished and declined or even died. Córdoba, Spain was once the largest city in Europe. Antigua, Guatemala was once the largest city in the Western Hemisphere and ruled over New Spain. In the 1840s the New Orleans stock exchange had a higher capitalization than New York. Detroit is fascinating. There is little to suggest it can survive. Detroit has the highest taxes in Michigan for almost no municipal services or public safety, and a population with dismal levels of educational attainment.. Why would any one in his or her right mind invest there?

There is a silly notion around that artists can somehow sustain an economy. The great art centers of the world, Florence, Paris New York evolved in the richest places. Art is mostly an indulgence of the rich. Rich people are scarce in Detroit.

This is the first time I have heard of Detroit having 'flair'. My impression is the opposite. Part of the reason Detroit's auto industry declined is that Detroit lacked flair and was designing cars that sophisticated affluent car buyers found in poor taste.

Reality is that Detroit will probably die a welfare ward of Michigan and the federal government, it's value most as a cautionary tale.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the debt and the Redistributionists and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the malaize and the spying. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

Maybe Detroit, Illinois, California . . . hell the entire Northeastern Seaboard too . . . just ought to get mad.

roadsidecouch
roadsidecouch

So Detroit runs out of other peoples money and petitions the court to allow it to ignore it's debt of other peoples money and get some more other peoples money     And then they will start a fresh round of borrowing other peoples money they never intend to pay back.   It is called Democrat politics.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

A cautionary tale for race-baiters everywhere:

The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment - Shelby Steele, Wall St. Jrnl

Starnesville was a Mid-Western town in Ayn Rand’s dystopian novel, Atlas Shrugged. Starnesville had been home to the great Twentieth Century Motor Company.  Once again the Brits levy an analysis devoid of the obligatory "she hate me" filter so over-used in the American press.

Ayn Rand's Starnesville Come to Life - Daniel Hannan, Daily Telegraph

"What isn’t dumped is stolen. Factories and homes have largely been stripped of anything of value, so thieves now target cars’ catalytic converters. Illiteracy runs at around 47%; half the adults in some areas are unemployed. In many neighbourhoods, the only sign of activity is a slow trudge to the liquor store.'"

The population of Motown has fallen from two million to 700,000, and once prosperous neighbourhoods have become derelict. Seventy six thousand homes have been abandoned; estate agents are unable to shift three-bedroom houses for a dollar.

Which brings us to the scariest thing of all. Detroit could all too easily be a forerunner for the rest of the United States. As Mark Steyn puts it in the National Review:

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.

Oh dear. No wonder the president would rather talk about Trayvon Martin.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

The bankrupcy of Detroit is easy to understand when you look at how they generate their revenue.

The primary revenue source is Income Tax on residents.

As Jim pointed out post 1967 riots there was a migration of residents from Detroit to the suburban communities, the migration mostly composed of above avg income families.

There is a declining tax base that shows no change, the jobless rate in Detroit is high and industry is not expanding to absorb those unemployed. 

Adjusting the city employee's compensation won't provide enough, nor will changes to the city's pension obligations be sufficient in the long run. The infrastructure must be maintained, no opportunity to measureably reduce expenses there.

For Detroit to reorganize and get its books in balance either the demographic mix of the pop must change or the source of revenue needs to change.The former will take generations, the latter is a lot easier to resolve.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Never let a crisis go to waste, eh?  White cops?  I think not.  Some criticism from around the web:

40 percent of its streetlamps don’t work; 210 of its 317 public parks have been permanently closed; it takes an hour for police to respond to a 9-1-1 call; only a third of its ambulances are driveable; one-third of the city has been abandoned; the local realtor offers houses on sale for a buck and still finds no takers.

What else is left to sell? The City of Windsor has already offered to buy the Detroit half of the Detroit/Windsor tunnel, perhaps to wall it up.   The tunnel from Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, is now a border between the First World and the Third World — or, if you prefer, the developed world and the post-developed world.

It would be heartening to think the rest of the bloated public-sector work force, whose unsustainable pensions and benefits have brought Detroit to its present sorry state (and account for $9 billion of its $11 billion in unsecured loans).

So, late on Friday, some genius jurist struck down the bankruptcy filing. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina declared Detroit’s bankruptcy “unconstitutional” because, according to the Detroit Free Press, “the Michigan Constitution prohibits actions that will lessen the pension benefits of public employees.” Which means that, in Michigan, reality is unconstitutional.

With bankruptcy temporarily struck down, we’re told that “innovation hubs” and “enterprise zones” are the answer. Forty-seven percent of adults are functionally illiterate, which is about the same rate as the Central African Republic, which at least has the excuse that it was ruled throughout the Seventies by a cannibal emperor.

Why would any genuine innovator open a business in a Detroit “innovation hub”? Whom would you employ? The illiterates include a recent president of the school board, Otis Mathis, which doesn't bode well for the potential work force a decade hence.

As one droll tweeter put it, “If Obama had a city, it would look like Detroit.”

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

It's funny when a writer make a prediction about something that already happened - and gets it wrong.

Bankruptcy means they already didn't survive this crisis.  Corporations are people, and that corporation is dead.  Another may replace it, but it won't bring the old one back to life.

roo_ster
roo_ster

JS:

Really?  Detroit is a failed city because of white suburban cops?  Yep, all those black Detroit citizens and elected officials, they just couldn't withstand the overwhelming power of white suburban cops to drive the city to ruin. Such a sad (fairy) tale.

I do wonder when soggy liberals will look at and treat black men and women as adults, with capabilities and responsibilities, instead of as mildly retarded children with no ability to make their own way in this world. 

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

Thanks for the insight; however, I reserve judgment on your assertion that young white suburban policemen of that era couldn't "read" the intentions of young black men and were therefore frightened into pulling the trigger too soon. I also remember those damn fools that burned and looted your formerly beautiful town. There was a lot of hate on both sides back then, but I guess hate and fear are running buddies that know no color.

James080
James080

I just have to believe that way back in the 70's, there was a cadre of "no justice no peace" politicians coming into power in Detroit and behaving a lot like Diane Ragsdale, JWPrice, Don Hill and Al Lipscomb et al., playing the race card on every issue, taking their cut when no one was looking, installing their minions in high pay-low performance jobs, and generally giving everyone with means ample reason to find another address outside Detroit.

Now that Dallas is a solid blue city, with a failing school district, disorganized city and county leadership, with little to no growth potential, it can easily happen here too.

But when you really get down to brass tacks, a city, county, state or country fails because it is governed by incompetent or corrupt politicians, and the people ultimately decide to vote with their feet rather that at the ballot box.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

However, a corrupt government had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the bankruptcy.


How the life in Southlake, Mayor Kilpatrick?

Americano
Americano

Detroit is a microcosm of what the US will be in 50 years.  Enjoy!

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Dallas has one huge untapped financial resource that Detroit doesn't have. That nearly no city has. An extremely wealthy suburb surrounded on all sides by Dallas.

It's quite simple really, set up a toll booth on the Dallas side of every road that goes into Highland Park/University Park. Want to get out of your bubble? That'll be $2 each way. It's not like HP has any room to grow, so lets pay for Dallas infrastructure on the backs of the folks in the bubble.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@joseph

White liberals have largely won the argument that massive government expenditure must be infused into the black community. However, they have probably lost the argument that such vast government investments have done much to alleviate the plight of urban black youth.  The collapse of Detroit from what it was to where it is, is man-caused environmental contamination at its worst.

joseph
joseph

Everybody is mad. At somebody else. Could it be a case of "We have met the enemy and it is us."?

roadsidecouch
roadsidecouch

Yeah, a new miniature fake suspension bridge.  Why the one Dallas built made Dallas a world class city according to the Dallas Morning Snooze. 

joseph
joseph

The deficit under president Obama is falling at a dramatic rate. Securities Markets are reaching all time highs reflecting people's renewed confidence in the future.Employment has risen faster and is slated for more growth. The nation is on the way to universal health care catching up with the Civilized World.

Right wing whiners are so desperate they have to make up fantasies and faux scandals. Things are looking up. Could it be they aren't for you is because you are a loser looking for excuses?

Daniel
Daniel

@holmantx  Being articulate doesn't make Mark Steyn not a dick.

observist
observist topcommenter

@mavdog  There was no one thing that caused the de-population of Detroit - it started 15 years before the 1967 riots.  Ford's $5/day wages in the 20's caused a huge boom in employment and immigration to the city that was extended by the war effort but ultimately not sustainable. More efficient manufacturing reduced the number of factory jobs available, foreign competition did the same.  Detroit experienced the same suburbanization as most US cities starting in the 50's, plus the riots and race relation problems. 

http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2011/03/chart-of-day-detroit-population-falls.html


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Americano 

Hmm. Why isn't Frisco or Plano what the country will be in 50 years -- multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-colored and upwardly mobile? I guess if can't still be a white man's country, then you hate your country.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Mudhoney 

All we have to do is withhold their water.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

A truly asinine idea. What about everybody moving up and down Preston, Hillcrest going in and out of Park Cities on same commute. A lot more people travel through the Park Cities than actually live there. What great institution of higher learning gets the dubious clim of being your alma mater?

adam578
adam578

@Mudhoney This may be the worst idea ever suggested on the internet.

For starters, it would cost Dallas $6 per toll collected to administer the program.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@observist @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

The Ambassador Bridge doesn't count as it is old and decrepit and it is privately owned.  It is also not a world class bridge.  the owners of the Ambassador Bridge have been fighting the Cities of Detroit and Windsor have been fighting the owners of Ambassador Bridge about building an additional span over the Detroit River.


The City of Detroit desperately needs a world class string thingy bridge designed by an overrated pompous spanish architect.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@observist @holmantx 

It takes a sick mind to compare, by any torture of the fact set, Texas to the Blue States.

The racialists won't be happy until Blacks attain Indian nation status.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@JimSX @Americano This might be the first time you've ever had anything good to say about Frisco or Plano, or any suburb, Jim. Disingenuous much?

Americano
Americano

@JimSX

This country is run by big city socialists, just like Europe and England.  We are failing just like them as well.  Those big cities are not multicultural and the only white people there are guilt ridden socialists like yourself.  I imagine my black stepfather and brothers , sisters and other relatives would be surprised to hear someone who has never even met me refer to me at the white devil.  But racism is the last crutch of the weak minded, so why should I be surprised that is where you turn when you have nothing else.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@adam578 @Mudhoney 
Way to look at only one side of the equation.
Considering the cost without the benefit is just half-witted.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx @observist

"How is Perry responsible for municipal debt?"

The decision by Perry to not increase State spending for services such as education, health and transportation, these costs fall on the backs of local governments.

There is no transfer of State funds to local government in TX for general funding.

Perry desires to be identified as a fiscal conservative for his ambition to higher office, reigning in State spending has been an important goal to this narrative. In painting this picture the local governments have seen their spending increase as their obligations grow due to pop growth, and aging infrastructure.

so yes, Perry and his fiscal budging policies have resulted in increased local debt.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@observist @holmantx

Maybe you didn't think about what you said: "Oh yes he would - he's just hiding the ball under the OTHER shell."

How is Perry responsible for municipal debt?

Chicago is in similar trouble as Detroit however, Illinois is on the precipice. They are about take a Detroit.  

AS you say, Texas is in a position to save Houston.

observist
observist topcommenter

@holmantx@observist  Maybe you didn't read the article... (which was from a conservative source, BTW.)

"While Texas’s state government debt is relatively modest—just $40 billion, or $1,577 per resident—local government debt is more than four times higher: $192 billion. That’s $7,505 per capita, according to Combs’s report—the second-highest sum in the nation, behind only New York’s municipalities and far ahead of third-place California’s."


mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

you should change your photo to an ostrich, it is much more representitive of how you think and act.

when confronted by a verifiable response disputing your assertion, you just stick your head in the ground and act like it doesn't exist.

newsflash: your dismissive retorts void of facts do not mean a thing. they are hollow. worthless.

observist
observist topcommenter

@holmantx @mavdog    Pointing out that you evidence you provided is has been thoroughly discredited is not being pedantic, it's being objective.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

wow, what a direct counterargument to the points made by Felton and Devries!

oh, wait, you didn't make ANY argument against their points? except of course for "kooky". which is such a literate response....

"“There is no direct evidence available about the validity of the model’s predictions for the congressional district or city/town/place Census areas,” e.g. the city of Detroit."

if you could provide the direct evidence, great, otherwise your assertion is demonstrably wrong.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@RTGolden1 @JimSX @Americano Actually, Jim's previously written about the diversity of our suburbs and how they are a true melting pot of upwardly mobile people of all races living the American dream.  Basically, everything Dallas isn't.  I don't think he's being disingenuous at all.

observist
observist topcommenter

@Americano@JimSX   

"racism is the last crutch of the weak minded"   

I think you got your context wrong here.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...