July 23 2013

Can Liberals Face the Truth about Detroit?

Charlotte Hays

Sally Kohn, an energetic  young liberal with a remarkable haircut, made her debut on Fox’s six o’clock news panel last night, and all I can say is: Whoa!

Speaking of the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history, Ms. Kohn opined that “a number of folks are going to try to use Detroit falsely as an example to push more austerity, to really cram more austerity, down the throats of the United States.”

Well, yeah, Sally, because if cities, states and the federal government continue to spend like Detroit we’ll all be in the same boat as the Detroit pensioners who’re about to learn a lot more about extreme austerity than was anticipated when the unions demanded unsustainable benefits packages that contributed to the city’s ruin.

It’s not surprising that liberals aren’t comfortable with the meaning of Detroit’s bankruptcy. The failure of Detroit is the failure of just about everything they believe in as a matter of faith. Rich Lowry nails what went wrong with Detroit:

 The case of the city of Detroit isn’t much of a murder mystery. Various suspects have been fingered in its demise: The global economy. The fall of the auto industry. The decline of manufacturing generally. But it’s simpler than that: Detroit died of its own hand.

The city undertook a controlled experiment in what happens if you are governed by a toxic combination of Great Society big spenders, race hustlers, crooks, public-sector unions and ineffectual reformers. It spent and misgoverned itself into the ground. It tried to defy the axiom of the late economist Herb Stein that “if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Detroit’s bout of self-destruction lasted for a few decades, and now may finally stop only when there is little left to destroy. …

It was the city’s dysfunction that made it unappealing to the auto companies, rather than the diminished state of the auto companies that made the city dysfunctional. The city’s mayor for 20 years, Coleman Young, was an ethically challenged black nationalist who hated the suburbs. Under Young, journalist Zev Chafets writes, Detroit had “all the trappings of a Third World city — the showcase projects, an external enemy and the cult of personality.” And this was in the good old days of the 1970s and 1980s.

Does that bit about a cult of personality alarm you just a bit? Yeah, me, too.

Unless liberals can face up to the root causes of what happened in Detroit, we'll be seeing more such bankruptcies.

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