The Corner

Occupy Detroit: Why Here?

Detroit, Grand Circus Park — Detroit would seem an odd place for the Occupy movement. After, all, it has already received everything the 99 Percenters are demanding.

Want redistribution of wealth? For 40-odd years, Detroit has gotten tens of billions of dollars in welfare assistance, from the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson’s administration to Barack Obama’s Strong Cities Initiative.

Want good-paying jobs? Michigan is the notorious home of the Big Three automakers, who paid their workers a best-in-the-U.S. wage of $40 an hour — far above the average U.S. manufacturing wage of $15 an hour, resulting in blue-collar workers who often earned six-figure incomes.

Want socialized medicine? Canada is right across the river from Detroit, offering a single-payer, government-run health system.

And yet on Friday, some 500 demonstrators from across Michigan descended on downtown Detroit to protest conditions here. They gathered at the Spirit of Detroit statue at the base of Woodward Avenue. They marched up Detroit’s main street past the gleaming new corporate headquarters of Quicken Loans and Compuware, past a sea of empty storefronts, past the corporate-sponsored sports complexes, to their destination: Grand Circus Park. They held signs reading “Make capitalism extinct” and “The People are too big to fail” and “Eat the rich” while chanting “Good jobs now!” and “Tax the rich!” and “F— the GOP!”

Unwittingly, however, they were protesting a Democratic-run city that represents the failure of their agenda.

The distribution of wealth? In addition to massive federal welfare payments, Detroit also levies the state’s highest property tax as well as its own income tax. Yet that hasn’t helped the poor. In fact, it has done the opposite — creating a fatherless city that leads the nation in crime, sports a nearly 50 percent adult illiteracy rate, and graduates just 24 percent of its students from high school.

The good-paying jobs? The gravity-defying wages of the UAW crippled GM and Chrysler, forcing them into the very federal bailouts that the Occupy movement decries — $60 billion in federal loans that they, unlike Wall Street banks, have yet to fully pay back.

And the socialized medicine? The waiting lists created by Canada’s single-payer system drive thousands of Canadians across the border to Michigan hospitals every year to get the treatment they are denied at home. There is little traffic the other way. Were it not for the safety valve of America’s superior, more market-oriented system, many more Canadians would, literally, die.

For the next 60 days, Occupy Detroiters will squat in Grand Circus Park. They are in the wrong place. They should be protesting a president in Washington, D.C., who wants to expand the polices that have destroyed Detroit to the rest of the country.