At one time America's fourth most populous city hosting automakers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, the Motor City has lost 63 percent of its population since 1950. Although there are some signs of renewal in its inner city, downward trends have been obvious for decades. Crime, government corruption, financial scandals plus dysfunctional family life have all played their role in Detroit's slide into bankruptcy.
But as The Economist recently pointed out beneath a recent headline: "It's not just Detroit. American cities and states must promise less or face disaster" ("America's Public Finances: The Unsteady States of America," July 27, 2013).
The Financial Times added, "While Detroit is an extreme example of urban decay, its predicament sheds light on similar problems that afflict a number of US cities" (cover teaser for "Detroit: Descent Into Despair," July 26).
Time magazine revealed that Birmingham, New Orleans and Philadelphia are among the foremost examples of cities with serious debt obligations in the millions (Aug. 5). Primary blame has been assigned to pensions, but society having gone awry in its fundamental relationships between people must figure heavily in such severe debt problems.
City governments wind up footing the costs of sin —both social and monetary. And ultimately, individual taxpayers and private business pick up the tab. As the Economist article concluded, "America's dynamic private sector is carrying on its back an unreformed Leviathan. Detroit is merely a symptom of that." (Sources: The Economist, Financial Times, Time.)