Come See Detroit, America’s Future

Charlie LeDuff, New York Times, July 26, 2013

I know an old woman who hasn’t opened her windows in a decade, afraid that what’s outside will climb inside. Inside, there is the stale odor of dead air.

I know another woman who called me about a corpse lying outside her window for six and a half hours. This was because of cutbacks at the morgue. No dignity in death here. They do it better in Baghdad.

The latest trend? When a person is murdered, he is thrown into an abandoned house, and it is set on fire. There are tens of thousands to choose from.

I know of an 11-year-old boy who was shot, the bullet going clean through his arm. The cops stuffed him in the back of a squad car and rushed him to the hospital. That’s how we do it. There was no ambulance available. About two-thirds of the city’s fleet is broken on an average day.

{snip}

In our town, the 911 dispatch system recently went down for 15 hours, and no one seemed to give a damn. When the system is running, the average wait is 58 minutes. Firefighters can’t use hydraulic ladders on fire trucks to do their jobs unless there is an “immediate threat to life.” In a fire—imagine that. The ladders haven’t been inspected in years.

If this were New York, these stories would have ricocheted around the world. But this is Detroit and, of course, nobody gives a damn. {snip}

{snip}

So we went broke, bust, bankrupt. We’ve known that in Detroit for years. Only now it is official with a Chapter 9 filing last week. The biggest municipal default in United States history—at least $18 billion. Suddenly, America gives a rip.

How did it get this way, I’m asked? {snip}

The short answers: municipal mismanagement, race riots, white flight, black flight, dead flight (people routinely disinter their deceased and relocate them to the suburbs). There were the overreaching unions and management that couldn’t balance a ball. Proof? The multibillion-dollar bailout of the auto industry. Thank you, American taxpayers!

Then there is our spectacular civic corruption: A former mayor, Kwame M. Kilpatrick, waits for a bed in federal prison, convicted of extortion, racketeering and bribery. He looted the city of millions of dollars and stole the future of thousands of children. {snip}

So Detroit files for bankruptcy. What does this mean? Pay close attention because it may be coming to you soon, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia. In 2011, Moody’scalculated the unfunded liabilities for Illinois’s three largest state-run pension plans to be $133 billion. (It is expected to be even larger this year.) That’s the size of six Detroit bankruptcies—give or take a few hundred million.

{snip}

In simple math, do we sacrifice 30,000 former and current workers to save a city of700,000 people and their progeny? Most Detroiters will tell you yes. Don’t judge. We feel bad about it. But we’re simply Americans. We are a gaunt dog. We are desperate. And you are watching and studying us.

Pension checks will be much smaller than planned and health care benefits will get foisted off on Medicaid and Obamacare. Thanks again, taxpayers!

There is hope up here on the Great Lakes. We have fresh water, profitable auto companies, more than $130 billion a year in trade with Canada crossing through our city, a world-class research university and, eventually, a clean balance sheet. Hey, it helps to be first. What do you have, Atlanta?

So come visit Detroit, my fellow Americans. Come take a look at your future. Come give the tires a kick. And if you want your money back, come strip copper pipes and wiring from the abandoned buildings—if you can find any copper. Chances are, someone beat you to it.

Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.