Who Killed the Motor City?

Pundits weigh in on what doomed Detroit

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 22, 2013 1:41 PM CDT

(Newser) – In the wake of Detroit's bankruptcy a lot of fingers are being pointed. The city's been locked in a well-documented downward spiral, but whose fault is that? Here are what some pundits are saying:

  • Racism and corporate greed were the main culprits, argues Mark Binelli at the Guardian. Detroit suffered from "a history of abandonment, neglect, isolation, and outright hostility born directly out of racial tensions that have historically divided Detroit from its predominantly white suburbs," from betrayal by the Big Three automakers, "those pioneers of job outsourcing," and from the financial collapse and jobless recovery Wall Street has authored nationwide.

  • There are two lessons here for other governments, the Detroit News warns: First, "debt does matter," even though Washington seems desperate to pretend it doesn't. Second, the city "lost focus on its core mission, which should have been providing essential services to residents. … A government that focuses on serving its taxpayers first is less likely to lose its tax base."
  • "We should never blame the victims," writes Rochelle Riley at the Detroit Free Press, but retired city employees "have spent years counting on Detroit city officials to forever keep promises" that they clearly couldn't. The pension crisis—retirees outnumber current workers 21,000 to 9,700—has been "a financial tsunami that began heading for Detroit years ago. Yet not a word from retirees. Where were y'all?"
  • Daniel Hannan at the Telegraph notes the striking similarity between Detroit and Ayn Rand's fictional dystopia Starnesville. And in real life, as in Atlas Shrugged, the culprit was "leftist administrations" that have "spent too much and borrowed too much, driving away business and becoming a tool of the government unions."

The Detroit skyline is seen from Grand River on Thursday, July 18, 2013, in Detroit.
The Detroit skyline is seen from Grand River on Thursday, July 18, 2013, in Detroit.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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It was apparently easier to address one tragic death than to honestly grapple with the misdeeds that had brought low one of the most important cities of the 20th century. - Mark Binelli, lamenting the race speech Obama didn't give when he discussed the shooting of Trayvon Martin

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