The Corner

Death Wish

There was a chilling piece in the New York Times yesterday about the once-great city of Detroit that should be required reading for all Democrats but probably will be just be politely ignored. Faced with the real-world consequences of their own pretty theories about economics and human nature, Regressives tend to tiptoe past the bodies lying in the street when grim reality comes a-calling. After all, as they like to say about Communism, their ideas really just haven’t been tried yet.

The financial crisis that has made Detroit one of the largest cities ever to face mandatory state oversight was decades in the making, a trail of missteps, of trimming too little, too late, of hoping that deep-rooted structural problems would turn out to be cyclical downturns that might melt away as the economy picked up.

Some factors were out of the city’s control. As auto industry jobs moved elsewhere over the decades, for example, Detroit lost much of its affluent tax base. Lower than expected state revenue sharing did not help, nor did corruption allegations in the administration of Kwame M. Kilpatrick, a mayor who resigned in 2008 and was convicted on Monday of racketeering and other federal charges.

Kilpatrick is, of course, a Democrat, a detail the Times chooses to omit (although it later identifies good-guy Mayor Dave Bing by his party affiliation). But, hey, it’s all in a day’s work when you belong to a criminal organization masquerading as a political party and the Times is your gangland mouthpiece. From the NBC News report:

Jurors found Kilpatrick guilty of 24 criminal counts, including racketeering, extortion and bribery, after a trial in which prosecutors said he presided over a breathtaking profit machine that turned City Hall into “Kilpatrick Incorporated.”

The racketeering count alone carries up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said that Kilpatrick, 42, steered $83 million in city work to a friend and contractor, Bobby Ferguson, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks. Jurors also returned guilty verdicts Monday against Ferguson and against Kilpatrick’s father.

A fundraiser also testified that she gave Kilpatrick a $200,000 personal cut of his political donations and pulled cash from her bra during private meetings.

Kilpatrick, a Democrat, was just 31 when he was elected mayor in 2001. His tenure was scarred by allegations of cronyism, nepotism and out-of-control spending, coinciding with the continued decline of the city itself.

Yup, just a coincidence. Everything happens in a vacuum. Or maybe not: 

But recent findings from a state-appointed review team and interviews with past and present city officials also suggest a city that over the years was remarkably badly run.

The state review team found in recent months that the city’s main courthouse had $280 million worth of uncollected fines and fees. No one could tell the team how many police officers were patrolling the streets, even though public safety accounted for a little more than half the budget. The city was borrowing from restricted funds and keeping unclaimed property that it was required to turn over to the state. In some city departments, records were “basically stuff written on index cards,” as one City Council member put it.

“This was bad decisions piled on top of each other,” Gary Brown, the Detroit City Council president pro tem, said the other day. “It has all been a strategy of hope.”

Well, as they say, hope is not a plan, except to leftists, where it’s usually just about the only plan, everything else being mean-spirited and uncompassionate.

Once the nation’s fourth-largest city, Detroit had grown up around the auto industry, booming right along with it in the 1950s. City workers gained ground with pay increases intended to keep pace with those the United Auto Workers won for its members, analysts said.

Crucial that “public servants” keep pace with workers in industries that actually made something, and upon which the entire fortune of the city had been built. And, of course, thanks to the Lefty Whipsaw, it would unthinkable to do anything different:

The cost of the retirees’ pensions also grew because of an inflation-protection feature that compounds every year. Detroit cannot renege on paying the benefits, at least outside of bankruptcy, because the State Constitution makes it unlawful to reduce pensions after public workers earn them.

And there you have it — Detroit as the perfect exemplar of liberal thought and policy in action. But even in the Land of No Consequences, there are consequences, and in Detroit’s case, they are dire. Photographs alone cannot convey the extent of the wreckage and spiritual desolation. Motown’s the perfect dead end of the leftist dream — and now that they’ve perfected it, whipsaw and all, it’s coming to a country near you. Here’s the Times’ kicker:

“Detroit is a microcosm of what’s going on in America, except America can still print money and borrow,” Mr. Boyle said.

We’ll see how long that lasts. Meanwhile, what’s happened in Detroit is a national disgrace, and in a properly functioning two-party system, the GOP would hang it around the Democrats’ neck, beat them to the ground with it, and never let up until the public begins to grasp the magnitude of the calamity, and what it portends for a nation hurtling down the same path.

Note that I said “properly functioning.”

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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