How did this happen? From 1900 to 1930 Detroit was the second fastest growing city in the Country. Los Angeles was first, but started much smaller. Following World War II, Detroit was a leader of industry and commerce. Detroit was the world leader in the manufacture of automobiles. The population reached 1.9 million people. In 1960 Detroit was the richest per capita of any city in America. What happened?
We dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima at the end of World War II devastating the city. I would recommend watching this video Hiroshima and Detroit today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P0-WBCSLkQ
Today Detroit is down to 710,000 people, is in total decay, and is bankrupt. It’s not just buildings in decay; it’s a culture lost and people’s lives wasted. 60% of the children live in poverty and 50% of the population is functionally illiterate. There is large unemployment due to the loss of almost half of all manufacturing jobs, mostly related to automobile manufacturing.
The sad thing is we knew this was coming. With the mistakes made in the past, it was inevitable, and we did nothing to change or stop it. Auto plants closed in Detroit and new plants were opened in other states. Every one of these automobile manufacturers would have preferred Detroit because Detroit had a trained labor force with a good work ethic (probably not true today), parts suppliers, and was a transportation hub for both land and water. These plants were not located in Detroit because reasonable agreements could not be reached with the United Auto Workers and the City of Detroit. Union claims that the quality production for vehicles produced in non-union plants would decline has not proven accurate. In fact quality is up.
I have some real horror stories of cars produced in the 70’s when I was a new car dealer. Many of these were clearly intentional. We once found a small tin pillbox with a few ball bearings tapped to the inside of the roof under the headliner. When we finally found the source of the noise, an accompanying note said. “I bet this one drove you crazy.” Do you suppose it was intentional?
There were many other causes for Detroit’s decline. I think one of the major causes was our welfare system, which has proven a total failure. It has undermined the value of a good work ethic and the traditional family unit. We now have three generations of people enslaved to welfare. Detroit no longer offers the trained work force it once had.
There have been problems with city government for more than forty years. Police and fire departments are in disarray and dysfunctional. Crime rates soared and arsons were commonplace. There was corruption and cronyism in city government to the point of making it dysfunctional. Top city government over the last decades has given Detroit no chance to thrive. We must stop accepting that this is just the way government works. That statement makes me crazy.
There were problems with pension benefits that were unsustainable, and rising health care costs. NAFTA0, OSHA, EPA, and the cost of energy also contributed to the problem.
Detroit’s decay has many causes, but have you noticed a common denominator? Growing government, and the self-serving interests of the political elite and union leaders always seem to be the root cause. Sometimes these leaders are just plain criminals. Several top Detroit officials have gone to prison.
Some people think the federal government should bail out Detroit. This would he a huge mistake. We have probably fourteen other major cities on the verge of bankruptcy. They are just waiting to see if they can count on the federal government to bail them out too. A few of our states like Illinois and California are not in much better shape and looking to the federal government.
This is the Progressive movement at it’s best. We need real change now so we don’t see Detroit’s problems repeated in other cities, states, or even a national basis. We must reduce the size, spending, control, and debt of government before it is too late.