The only thing good about Detroit are the Tigers. Cabrera, Verlander, Fielder, Scherzer and a shortstop on steroids. Other than that, it is a dump.
The Lions? Lame. The Pistons? Pathetic. The Red Wings? OK, they are respectable and storied, but no longer the Red Wings of old.
Some of you are wondering why a political columnist is talking about Detroit’s sport teams. The answer is obvious—nothing else in Detroit is worth talking about. The only other thing that is good in Detroit these days are Tim Horton’s donuts and coffee, and those are from Canada!
Every pundit worth their salt has addressed Detroit over the past few weeks. On the right, you hear it is because of Democrat rule that led to an untenable debt, mainly due to the pensions owed ($9 billion of the $11 billion debt). And they are 100 percent correct.
The left says, “It’s just one of those things that happens.” That was the actual profound analysis offered by the darling heart of liberalism Paul Krugman. It gives the powers that be cover to formerly remark, “Oops, my bad. Mulligan?”
There are no mulligans here. The government of Detroit repeatedly failed to exercise the basic responsibilities of governance, choosing at every turn graft, lethargy and favoritism over fiscal prudence, the provision of services and financial transparency. In 60 years, the fabled arsenal of democracy was destroyed, and all that the party that brought this demise about has to say is, “Sorry about that. Not our fault; stuff happens, you know? We’ll do better next time. It won’t happen again.”
The cognitive dissonance is staggering.
No one that looks at the facts can say this was random happenstance. The citizens are uneducated—47 percent illiterate, half of those with high school diplomas; the tax burdens are crushing, with one of the highest property taxes and income tax rates in the country; and the violent crime rate is the highest in the country.
I know some people are confused. The Big Three auto manufacturers are going strong; they are in Detroit, so Detroit should not be bankrupt, right? GM may be headquartered in Detroit, but only 3,000 manufacturing jobs exist within the city limits. All of the other production is in the exurbs of the city, in other states or overseas. High labor costs, driven by craven and ultimately self-destructive unions, hollowed out the once-vital middle-class core of the city.
Chrysler has but a single plant in the city, which creates 4,000 jobs. However, its headquarters is located in Auburn Hills, Mich. (as are the Pistons). Not to mention the fact that Chrysler is actually an Italian company now, with Fiat coming to its rescue after massive pension obligations and a declining market share drove it to the brink of extinction.
Ford, the fourth largest car company in the world and the only one of the three not to get bailed out by the government or the Italians, has no production in the city and operates out of Dearborn, Mich.
It is important to note that the government bailed out GM for years of terrible decisions—decisions that were strikingly similar to those made by Detroit’s city fathers. Year after year, they both made financial promises based on rosy assumptions of endless growth—promises that would ultimately be someone else’s problem some other day.
The left has said the city of Detroit should get the same federal bailout treatment. Another mulligan. So again, the rest of the country has to pay for the mistakes of a few profligate fools? Run your company into the ground? Here is your federal bailout. Run the economy into the ground? Here is your federal bailout. Run your city into the ground? Here is your federal bailout.
The problem with Detroit, with GM, with the banks and modern progressive thought can be boiled down to two issues: the lack of personal responsibility and focus on the present to the detriment of the future. A corporation has a responsibility not only to make money, but also to make the best decisions that ensure its long-term viability. Taking care of its workers is noble, but making commitments that cannot be kept dooms both the company and the employees. An employee’s paycheck exists only as long as the company survives. Economics is not some zero-sum game. Decisions have consequences.
Likewise, a government is responsible to its citizens. Making wild promises for votes does a disservice to all. Yet again and again, we allow politicians to do it. Even worse, we encourage groups to twist politicians’ arms to make those ill-conceived promises into inane policy. So yes, the right is correct that Democrats ran Detroit into the ground making selfish decisions. But they had an enabler. The true murderer of Detroit was the people. They elected glib politicians over serious managers. Those who were able, fled, leaving the results to the less fortunate masses. Those remaining kept doing what they always did and voted for more of the same. When other people’s money ran out, as it always does, the bread and circuses stopped.
The Tigers went through a terrible 15-year stretch, from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, bottoming out in 2003. But a smart management team, led by an owner willing to invest his own money in building for the future, led to a remarkable turnaround. I am not a fan of publicly funded stadiums; however, the Tigers’ owners financed 83 percent of Comerica Park themselves and the people of Detroit voted to fund the remaining 27 percent. This made the Tigers directly beholden to the voters. The Tigers’ organization responded by building an organization that its fans, players and employees could be proud of.
Imagine if government, for once, acted accordingly. Maybe then the Tigers would not be the only thing in Detroit worth cheering about.
Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 110, 6-7 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. EST. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.