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More Motor City Blues

In a week that has already brought its share of bad news for the federal Head Start program, the Detroit Free Press throws another log on the fire. According to the paper, the scandalously incompetent and corrupt city government in Detroit awarded a three year “no-bid” contract to what, if the critics are right, looks like one of the most despicably corrupt gangs of poverty pimps this side of ACORN.  The non-profit in question, Clark & Associates, has been accused of gross “misspending and incompetence.” That is putting it mildly as the paper reports:

The council first grew concerned about Clark & Associates after the newspaper revealed that the nonprofit helped the city buy office furniture with $210,000 in federal funds that were intended to clothe and feed poor people about a year ago. The group has benefited from numerous no-bid contracts in the past five years.

Council members said the current contract, if approved, may violate the law and put federal money in jeopardy at a time when poor Detroit children most need the help. Among the concerns: No bids were taken, Clark & Associates has no experience with Head Start, and the city never gained approval from the Head Start Policy Council to hire the nonprofit.

Given the dysfunctional nature of Detroit politics, it’s impossible for outsiders to know whether a public spirited City Council is raising the alarm about a genuine scandal, or whether one group of demagogic rent-seekers is complaining that the wrong guys are getting the payola that should rightfully be theirs.

Mayor Bing, spouting fine slogans about the sacred rights of democracy as he fights a state takeover of what’s left of Detroit, did not send anyone to answer City Council questions about the no-bid contract from a chronically mismanaged agency to a dubious vendor.  The mayor’s office also refused to discuss the matter with the Detroit Free Press — not a good sign, in our view.  Those who have a strong case to make are generally eager to speak with the press.

Meanwhile, rampant incompetence, administrative chaos and clueless mismanagement have so disrupted the ruined city’s faltering attempts to maintain some kind of early childhood education program that the Obama administration is threatening to close down all federal funding for early education in the once-bustling metropolis.  The city is too incompetent to spend money.

Failure like this is not built overnight. Decades of corruption, sloth, bad hiring decisions, political cronyism and depraved indifference to the needs of the poor were required to bring things to such a pass. No doubt Detroit has a generous pension program for all the wastrels and incompetents whose combined efforts created this train wreck. These people somehow manage to protect themselves even as they blight the lives and hopes of the inner city kids they were hired to serve.

It is hard to see how a city recovers when things have fallen this far. Detroit’s voters do not seem interested in good governance, either unwilling or unable to penalize incompetence at the polls; the political class spouts blue liberal slogans but appears to have the compassion and generosity of a pack of velociraptors; the city’s core institutions have been so corroded and degraded after decades of decline that there is little hope for improvement anytime soon.

The status quo cannot stand.

Change is on the way.

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  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I hope we as a nation can learn from the example of Detroit, but it is clear from the states of California, Illinois and others that the Blue Model is going to take down more than a few cities and states before it can be defeated. The suffering we enjoy between then and now is our just deserts for not adapting more swiftly to the long time dying Blue Model.

  • Anthony

    “No doubt Detroit has a generous pension program for all the wastrels and incompetents….” Quote brings to mind WRM commentary of late professor of mine: The Dirty End of the Stick; his point being that the common man gets very little by voting along ethnic, religious, regional, and national-origins lines. He implies that “in almost every case of such widespread voting, it can be shown that the constituents in the home district or state are in some way getting the dirty end of the stick” (here for instances city constituents of Detroit).
    His fundamental point WRM being citizens get rooked, perhaps not so blatanly as Detroit but perceptibly nevertheless and all very democratically.

  • Kris

    “The status quo cannot stand.
    Change is on the way.”

    In the end the rain comes down,
    Washes clean the streets of a Blue Model Town.

  • tsmslf

    Doubtless, another case of the rich, white, elite politicos taking advantage of the poor people of color.

  • moron

    Liberals and Democrats goal is the welfare state. Detroit is a shining example of the final product.

  • Bob

    Yet no matter what happens in Detroit, the voters there keep putting the same party in power. That is THE reason Detroit will never get any better.

  • MnemonicMike

    The interesting thing is that Detroit represents what liberal policies (since the early 1960’s for Detroit, in terms of aid) have done… completely failed. The big difference is that liberals will keep throwing money, after 50 failed years, whereas conservatives will stop and try something else. Let’s try something else… like, if you don’t finish high-school and just fool around for most of your life, you starve. Once people understand that, they will become productive.

  • Tea Party at Perrysburg

    Detroit has over 40 unions, which are all negotiating now as the city fights to cut pay or workers. The city council has pulled the race card, claiming the new governor, who is white, is making a power grab toward the city. They have a “virtual” police desk from 4 pm until 8 am, meaning no more precincts. Just cops roving the streets. Wouldn’t you think they could pull together to save the city? But no.

  • Jeffersonian

    I spent a few months in Detroit reworking the Jefferson North Chrysler assembly plant in 1998, and the city inside 8-Mile looked like a third-world country (I know what I’m talking about…I spent years in Latin America) back then. I can’t even imagine what the dump looks like now.

    Leadership in Detroit has successfully plundered it of anything that would hold still long enough to be stolen. Other blue metropolises have been run by corrupt kleptocrats, but at least they’ve mostly been competent enough to keep the host alive enough to keep on producing nourishment for the parasites to drain off. Not so Detroit.

  • Mike James

    Political Correctness consists of knowing what you can’t say, and who you can’t say it about.

  • Stu in SDGO

    This is the end result of unrestricted Democrat rule; it happens
    everywhere. I know; I live in California where it’s happening on an even
    larger scale. It’s a travesty that this story and associated
    investigations into the political corruption that allowed this to happen
    are not plastered all over the media on a daily basis! But then the media
    are Democrats, so that explains why that won’t happen any time soon.

  • Tom Jones

    Detroit is North Korea … with the Unions holding the same pride of place as the North Korean Army—keep them happy and they keep the kleptocracy in power. No matter who else starves.

  • DocinPA

    “the compassion and generosity of a pack of velociraptors”!! Awesome!

  • Stephen

    “Detroit’s voters do not seem interested in good governance, either unwilling or unable to penalize incompetence at the polls.”

    Interesting comment. However, they still vote and they have certainly been voting for something. Any thoughts on what that might be?

    Detroit’s voters may be perfectly happy with their politicians. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that supporters of current and past office holders hold their elected officials to be relatively blameless victims of a system that has treated Detroit and its citizens unfairly. Most polities get the politicians they want…and deserve.

  • forrest

    This is precisely why government employee unions must be outright banned!

  • SDN

    This is the inevitable result of warm-body democracy. Until the right to vote is restricted to the productive, the moochers and looters will win.

  • PT

    As one of the non-retarded Detroit resident (only there for school), I can’t wait for Gov Snyder to appoint an emergency financial manager, with the power to break union contracts.

    Jessie Jackson has already promised “civil disobedience” if this happens. Oh boy, here we go!

  • Dan

    The very best thing that could happen to Detroit is for Detroit to die. Fire every single current employee and bulldoze any and all non-productive real estate. Start over. And don’t let a single person connected in any what whatever from setting foot back inside the city limits.

  • Mike_K

    “Doubtless, another case of the rich, white, elite politicos taking advantage of the poor people of color.”

    You obviously are unfamiliar with Detroit unless that is sarcasm.

  • PacRim Jim

    Teachers’ unions and media conspire to keep voters dumb.
    Those morons will soon be moving to our neighborhoods, to repeat the process.

  • TTT

    Exactly what do you expect when a certain demographic will always vote 90-95% for Democrats no matter what?

    Truly, is any other outcome possible.

    I question the intelligence of those who are surprised by this.

  • Steve

    How could they expect good governance?

    Half the population is illiterate!!

  • Heliogabalus

    “Detroit represents what liberal policies (since the early 1960′s for Detroit, in terms of aid) have done… completely failed”

    Yet liberal cities like San Francisco, Seattle and Portland are successful. Why is that?

  • VoteOutIncumbents

    I was born and raised in Detroit. Left in 1980 when there was still some decent neighborhoods left.

    During the worst ubran riot in post reconstruction US history in 1967 (43 killed), a decision was made to not protect private property…afterwards, everyone who could move got out.

    The first African-American major shut down STRESS (stop robberies and enjoy safe streets) and the criminals literally took over the streets. The black middle-class who were dependent on government jobs in the city had no where to go. In my opinion they suffered the greatest injuries.

    A culture of criminality took over city government…the attitude of the new liberal, black rulers was…it’s our turn now..and it became pay to play. A lot like the Daley machine in Chicago, except these folks didn’t care at all about competence…you know, making “the trains run on time”.

    Coupled with a terrible school system, Detroit quickly degenerated into a third world city. In 1998 my Dad passed away and my Mom lived in the old family home near Eight Mile and Kelly. She was mugged and had bricks thrown through three windows in the middle of the night.

    I went to the cops and THEY TOLD ME TO MOVE HER OUT. That was the response of the POLICE.

    A detective told me that the “good” people were all gone, and it was my responsibility to see that my mother did not get hurt.

    So, I moved her in with me…a hundred and fifty miles away.


  • Marty


    4 differences, maybe?

    1. No one mentions that beyond bad governance Detroit was a one-industry town and that industry died with nothing to replace it. I will be as savage as the next guy about “the Blue Model,” but fair’s fair. The economic base disappeared, in part driven out by local politics but also by global forces shrionking it so it didn’t need Detroit any more.

    2. SF, Seattle and Portland are favored by geography and climate.

    3. SF, Seattle and Portland have cultures based on education and civic-mindedness. The old eastern Rust-Belt cultures were based on an Fordist industrrial model that valued ethnic and class solidarity and did not produce leaders capable of dealing with the situation.

    4. As much corruption as one can find in the histories of places like SF, Seatle and Portland,, and there was/is plenty, it was rarely the whole story. In places like Detroit it was and may still be the main story, not just local color.

    1, 3 and 4 are intertwined.

  • Rick

    The Detroit city income tax started in 1965, two years before the riot in 1967. Southeastern Michigan is flat with no geographic barriers to moving. You could move a few miles to north of Eight Mile and get an immediate 4% income increase, as well as getting out of a high crime area with a government that wants you to leave. Plus Detroit’s property taxes rates are higher than most of the suburbs.
    P.S. I grew up within a mile of Eight Mile and Kelly ( in a suburb ).

  • Phillip Covill

    A couple of quibbles; To Heliogabalus, First of all Portland and Seattle have a huge pension problem along with a whithering of commonsense amongst their politicians. Their respective financial issues will be coming to light in the next fiscal year. San Francisco has better geography on its side, the finest port on the west coast, but by allowing the unions and OWS to interfere with smooth port operations will begin to cost this city once they start losing major contracts. But the San Francisco government has time to cleanup their act if saner minds are allowed to take charge. However, if the unions and extreme left do not recognize reality you can reasonably expect San Francisco to lose much of their port revenue, which will be the start of the avalanche.


  • koblog

    “…depraved indifference to the needs of the poor…”

    All our problems begin when government (as opposed to private charities) endeavor to “help” the poor.

  • Kris

    @12: “Tom Jones”?

  • charles austin

    A significant contributor to the decline is the loss of competition. A large number of our cities have been one party states for quite some time. In fact, in St. Louis there is no one alive who had been elected to office as a Republican. The last person elected as a Republican, back in the ’70s IIRC, passed away in 2010.

  • Whitaker Trammell

    I lived in Detroit for eighteen years, in the Green Acres neighborhood. It wasn’t at all bad, although I wouldn’t have been there if I’d had school age children. I moved to the nearby suburb of Ferndale only because my lndlord was foreclosed.

    As a few commentators have mentioned, the voters of Detroit know what they have and they either don’t care or are OK with it. Also, the race card is played early, often, and effectively. I think the corruption problem, which is thoroughgoing and endemic,is enhanced partly by the ability to rationalize that “it’s our turn, now.” It’s hard for people elsewhere to understand fully how the racial resentment–for good historical reasons, I grant–motivates a lot of behavior, both active and acquiescent.

    Still, I have to agree that Detroit’s problems are more acute because it was really a one-industry town. You could usually find a job that paid decently as long as you were willing to show up regularly and do the job.

    And of course,we have the People Mover that goes around in a circle, unsurprisingly has never come near the projected ridership figures, and sucks millions of dollars out of the treasury, and the current idea is to compound this with a light rail line.

  • Chris N

    I live in Seattle, and there is some true lunacy in policy decisions, and much public sentiment towards Blue policies (light rail is about $4-5 per rider…buses only $3.40 or so…but let’s build it!)

    The unions are thick and deep (Boeing, ferries, dock/port workers teachers etc) and more than a healthy share of Statists (people whose degrees lead them to collect gov’t rents) It also is a pretty white, well educated city, not so Detroit.

    It’s always been a boom and bust town, and as of now the pouplation influx/increase, tech sector, Boeing, port etc are offsetting the unsustainable Leftism (the last old paper mill in Everett just shut down).

    IN my opinion, Mead’s blue model theory still holds. Such policies can’t sustain themselves unless offset by other incentives to companies and people who fight such nonsense daily. What’s sad is that such policies ultimately hurt most the people they claim to help…

  • Chris N

    And I think that image of a train, losing $4-5 per rider, riding around in circles in the sky, stacked with pensioned union workers and their bought representatives, is quite fitting.

    All the poverty, inadequate schooling, crime, incentives to criminal activity, waste and graft, is still there, but you have a smaller professional class riding around in circles feeling good about itself.

  • Robert Hanson

    San Francisco, like much of California, is simply Detroit broadcast on time delay. There is a huge Union Pension problem hanging over it’s head, with as many people working as getting pensions, and no where near enough money saved up to continue that indefinitely. The streets are run by the homeless, with random petty crime the norm. Just imagine OWS happening everywhere around town.

    It is however bolstered by a beautiful natural setting that brings in tourist dollars and corporate headquarters tax dollars. Hidden behind that gorgeous facade is a level of underfunded pension debt, like termites eating away undisturbed at the foundation. There’s a rude awakening coming…

  • Bill T.

    I spent several years in Detroit and all of the messages are correct. Besides having an extremely corrupt and racist mayor for several years as well a being a one-industry city, there were two more huge problems. There was no plan for the future and quality control was overlooked. Remember Dr. Deming and his mantra on QC? He approached the automotives and was turned down.

  • Ed Joyce

    San Francisco may have a great port and lots of tourist, but it’s blue government is doing its best to break the city’s budget:

    $306M Fiscal year 2011-12 deficit

    $480M Fiscal year 2012-13 deficit

    $642M Fiscal year 2013-14 deficit

    26,108 Current number of city employees

    28,060 Number of city employees 10 years ago

    Source: City Controller’s Office

  • D. Guthrie

    Detroit is our Greece. Socialism eventually forsakes those dumb enough to believe “for the greater good” and not have their noise in the trough. “All pigs are equal”?

  • Dikehopper

    I have followed the changes in Detroit rather closely, starting in the mid-sixties. (For many years I read both of Detroit’s major newspapers on a daily basis.)

    Poster #24 above gives by far the best description of what happened in and to Detroit.

    And his description of why his mother had to leave Detroit is more than just an anecdote. It is a perfect illustration of the primary reason for the “white flight” out of Detroit.

    And no, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle are nothing like Detroit. Their demographics and political environments are completely different from each other.

  • LarryD

    My impression is that that once the black clique got political power at the city level, white flight wasn’t an accident, it was the goal. But they didn’t think out the consequences very well, so they were surprised when the black middle class fled as well. For some reason it never occurred to them that middle class blacks would dislike high taxes and crime as much as the white middle class.

    When the money and credit run out, I expect, just as in Greece, Detroit will have riots.

  • SteveR

    I still think they should change a good part of the city into farmland. Give me some real-estate prices and anybody willing to work on the farm.

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