Detroit’s Bankruptcy: What Small Government and Anti-Middle Class Policy Wrought (July 24, 2013)


The title of this post does not mean to suggest that the blame for Detroit’s spectacular, sustained collapse rests of the shoulders of one particular entity or interest group. From local government cronyism to the decline of America’s auto industry, to good old fashioned denial, there is plenty of blame to go around. Be that as it may, a number of commentators have rightly suggested that one of the causes of The Motor City’s fiscal crisis, the progressive shrinking of the tax base, is an ingrained part of the modern Republican party platform. Given that fact and the stark reversal in Detroit’s once glorious fortunes, there is plenty of reason to wonder if we can expect continued urban implosion if, heaven forbid, the GOP has their say.

On last Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press, NBC News’ Political Director Chuck Todd made the following observation: “If I told you that a city on the border of America’s largest trading partner couldn’t figure out how to diversify its economy, you have to sit there and say that it’s not just poor city governance. Poor business leadership, poor governance on a– it is sort of remarkable that Detroit, where it’s located, has ended up in the position.”

Yes indeed, once upon a time Detroit had everything going for it, and given its geographic desirability – in the heart of the nation’s breadbasket, bordering Canada – it is not unreasonable to concur that the city may one day regain some of its former prominence. However that possibility comes packaged with the biggest of “ifs.” If the aggressive small government ideology of the Republican party and its accompanying privatization obsession, coupled with heartless scorn for the working classes continues to metastasize, we can safely assume that the largest bankruptcy filing in history from a U.S. city will not be the last.

MSNBC host and professor Melissa Harris-Perry offered the following last Friday: “this lack of tax base is also exactly the kind of thing that many Republicans would impose on us, even when our cities have sufficient populations, even when our communities have sufficient populations. This is what it looks like when government is small enough to drown in your bathtub, and it is not a pretty picture.”

Harris-Perry’s network colleague, Ed Schultz was even more biting on his regular Sunday morning telecast last week, alleging that Michigan’s Republican Governor, Rick Snyder, is only too happy to be presented with the opportunity of “swindling public workers out of their hard-earned pensions,” treating Detroit’s hardworking, retired public servants “like they are just numbers on a balance sheet.”

But these are just liberal pundits generating ratings, right? There’s no real evidence of high profile GOPsters rooting for the Motor City’s demise!


In November 2008, an Op-Ed piece was written for the New York Times by failed Republican Presidential candidate, and former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney. The title? Let Detroit Go Bankrupt. And what rationale did this hater of the 47 percent provide for his argument that the city of Motown should be allowed to head into default, a full five years ahead of schedule? He blamed all troubles on union labor of course: “You don’t have to look far for industries with unions that went down that road. Companies in the 21st century cannot perpetuate the destructive labor relations of the 20th.”

While Romney was speaking of the proposed automaker bailouts at the time (which he predicted, incorrectly, would lead to the “virtually guaranteed demise” of the industry), the present union pile-on, a justification for gutting the future security of hardworking Americans, has been leveraged all across the Midwest. Consider the proud union-busting tactics of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decimation of teacher organizations in the name of “fiscal prudence.”

How long will the American public, and the increasingly corporatized media apparatus, continue to let Republicans get away with the type of cynical policy making, disguised as responsible leadership, that is literally destroying middle class solvency, speeding the foundering of the very ground upon which we stand?


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