Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.


I just posted a comment in the Comments thread to Bill H’s post on Michigan from Tuesday, and on a whim, because these issues hit a nerve for me, I’m reposting my comment as a full post here:

I love this post.  It hits upon a few of my obsessions, but especially these two: The lack of metropolitan-area public transportation (the complete absence of it or the utter inadequacy of it) in so many large metro areas in this country, and the local (rather than state or federal) funding of public education.

The public-transportation issue is just so in-your-face stunning in southeastern Michigan.  Detroit, for idiotic it’s-the-Motor-City reasons, is the only large Rustbelt city that has no rapid-transit system.  The most obvious—and I mean, it’s really, really obvious—way to revive Detroit and turn southeastern Michigan back into a thriving region is a system of fast, reliable, reasonably comfortable regional public transportation.  A sort-of diamond-shaped system running from Detroit to Ann Arbor to Lansing to Flint, through Pontiac, and back to Detroit would work miracles in a lot of people’s lives.  Add on a tail that runs from Detroit south through an area known as Downriver (which is mostly so-called working-class white) to Toledo, and ….

Michigan’s a surprisingly pretty state—lakes, rivers, tributaries galore—and it’s very green (literally).  It has large expanses of beautiful beaches.  It has two major public research universities and good regional state university system that includes a large one in Detroit.  It should not be a state in decline.

As for one of Bill’s larger points—this country’s obsession with complete local control over really important, basic government functions, and states’ rights to violate individuals’ rights at will—this plays a huge role in this country’s loss of economic competitiveness and its loss international esteem.  In no other democracy or advanced economy in the world do parents have to obsess about what school district this or that prospective home is in.  Does anyone think that, say, Canadians or Germans or Australians or the French worry about school districts?  Has anyone in this country stopped to think of why they don’t?

Nice post, Bill.

One thing Bill mentioned that I didn’t discuss in my comment is that Michigan (like several other states) tends to vote Democratic for president but Republican for government and state legislators.  That’s very largely a function of the fact that in modern times most states elect their statewide officeholders—governor, attorney general, etc.—in non-presidential-election years, and the drop-off in the number of Democrats who vote in those elections is dramatic.

So ALEC controls most state governments.

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Inequality: Obama’s Speech, Detroit’s Bankruptcy, Taxes

by Linda Beale

Inequality: Obama’s Speech, Detroit’s Bankruptcy, Taxes
Was Obama’s speech on inequality really what Michael Lind claims in “The Day the Right Lost the Economic Argument” (July 25, 2013)?

The right, both here and internationally, has been pushing for austerity for most while those at the top reap unparalleled rewards from upward-moving stocks and their interests in private equity and other financial assets.  The problem with austerity is that it puts all the burden on those who can least bear it, and rewards those with capital assets (mostly, people who grew up from birth onwards with incredible advantages).  The problem with austerity as the prescribed path to prosperity is that it doesn’t work.

Obama’s speech, says Lind, gave “a capsule summary” of mainstream progressivism.

In the period after World War II, a growing middle class was the engine of our prosperity. Whether you owned a company, swept its floors, or worked anywhere in between, this country offered you a basic bargain – a sense that your hard work would be rewarded with fair wages and benefits, the chance to buy a home, to save for retirement, and, above all, to hand down a better life for your kids.

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Detroit Update

by Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

Detroit Update

Today Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted in federal court of 24 felony courts of racketeering, extortion, mail fraud, bribery and tax evasion.

His chief henchman contractor Bobby Ferguson was convicted of 9 counts of racketeering and bribery.
Kilpatrick’s father was convicted of one count of tax evasion but the jury did not find him guilty on three extortion and bribery counts.

Jurors from the diverse jury expressed disgust after listening to and watching an immense amount of evidence.
Probably the biggest damage is that while Kilpatrick was running his criminal enterprise the City of Detroit was left to deteriorate and drift.

The next target of federal prosecutors may be Wayne County executives, perhaps including County Executive Robert Ficano.

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The Tragedy of Detroit

by Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

The Tragedy of Detroit

One of the great highlights of my life was my first visit to Detroit in 1962. I fell in love with the metropolis and of course the Detroit Tigers.

This week the governor of Michigan will appoint an emergency financial manager for Detroit, if anyone will take the job. Even the left-leaning Detroit Free Press is on board with a takeover. The alternative would be a Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing.

Detroit has probably been bankrupt for a long time, but no one really knows. The City of Detroit, the Detroit Water and Sewer department, the Detroit pension plans, and the Wayne County government are all a mess. About sixty square miles of the city have been largely abandoned.

Detroit has been hit hard by economic deterioration and middle class flight (more than just white flight), but the core problem in Detroit is four decades of gross mismanagement and rampant corruption.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations have attacked the corruption, and to Obama’s credit he redoubled the efforts to put Detroit officials and cronies in prison where they belong.

Why were huge obvious problems allowed to fester until Detroit is ready to collapse?

Political correctness and race politics. Even as Detroit is on the brink, race baiting is in full throat. And attempts to blame the GOP, although I can’t find any elected Republicans in major Detroit offices for at least two decades.

The people living in Detroit will continue to suffer for a long, long time.

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Opportunities in Detroit?

by Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

Opportunities in Detroit?

Detroit has lost about 60% of its population since the 1950s peak of about 2 million.

About 50 square miles of Detroit is so thinly populated that the Mayor wants to pay for people to move to more densely populated neighborhoods so the area can be abandoned for municipal services. No trash pick up, no police patrols. The first and second ring of suburbs are facing much of the same plight, and some may be headed for bankruptcy..

One idea for reclamation is urban farming, but that assumes people will not move into Detroit any time soon.

So does the 50 square miles provide us with an opportunity? New neighborhoods? New types of communities? A special immigration zone? Homesteading by young people? Entrepreneurial zones? If so, where do we get the money (Detroit and Michigan both being in various stages of broke)? Who leads the charge?

This is a country full of smart people. We should be able to think of something creative here.

Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

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