One way to view Detroit’s bankruptcy is as a failure of political negotiations over how financial sacrifices should be divided among the city’s creditors, city workers and municipal retirees, requiring a court to decide instead.
It could also be seen as the inevitable culmination of decades of union agreements offering unaffordable pension and health benefits to city workers.
But there’s a more basic story here, and it’s being replicated across America: Americans are segregating by income more than ever before.
Much in modern America depends on where you draw boundaries, and who’s inside and who’s outside. Who is included in the social contract?
If Detroit is defined as the larger metro area that includes its suburbs, it has enough money to provide all its residents with adequate if not good public services, without falling into bankruptcy. It would come down to a question of whether the more affluent areas of this Detroit were willing to subsidize the poor inner city through their tax dollars and help it rebound. That’s an awkward question that the more affluent areas would probably rather not have to face.
There’s nothing awkward about it, Prof. Reich. Those people faced the question years ago when they moved the hell away from corrupt, violent, crumbling Detroit, often abandoning homes they couldn’t sell in the process. (The last member of my immediate family to leave Detroit literally did that. Just moved out and left it to rot, because whatareyagonnado? At the end, I don’t think he bothered to lock the door.) They faced the question, and the answer was “No.”
To “redefine” the borders of Detroit so as to bring the ‘burbs under the sway of the tax vacuum is to put the suburban residents into slavery to the city residents. There’s no way to put it that’s more polite, yet still accurate. And while I’m quite sure Robert Reich sees no problem with that, good luck keepin’em down on the tax farm. You’d need a big wall and guard towers.