As Detroit went bankrupt, we asked whether Obama would do anything about the failure of the city whose main industry he bailed out five years ago. It’s taken a few months, but it looks like he has a plan: the Los Angeles Times reports that the Obama administration is moving to send $300 million in funds from various federal agencies for use by the struggling city. The money will go mostly to the demolishing of decrepit buildings, keeping police officers on the street, and keeping the city’s transit system running. Yet while the funds involved are significant, the administration has been very clear that the money is not a bailout (which would require Congressional consent), and it will have no impact on the pension battle brewing in the city. Instead, this money looks like a stopgap measure for the city to keep the lights on as it navigates through one of the most difficult chapters in its history.
To help alleviate the problem, the government is awarding the city Justice Department funds to hire new police officers and establish a bike patrol, helping the city access $25 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to hire 150 firefighters and purchase new equipment, and providing Department of Energy services to repair some of the 40% of Detroit’s streetlights that are not functioning.In a speech in Detroit on Friday, Holder said that the Justice Department would help fund 10 more police officers in the city, award a grant to help law enforcement officials buy new technology, and give $100,000 to the state Department of Corrections, to help parolees reenter society.
This is a good idea on the whole: Detroit may have brought many of its failures on itself, but this doesn’t mean that we should abandon the hundreds of thousands of people who remain. But it’s not a good situation when the President can do something this big and significant without Congressional approval. If Congress wants to recover its institutional powers, it is going to have to tighten the way it drafts laws and reviews regulations.[Detroit image courtesy of Shutterstock]