The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
An Important Day for Detroit

Disgraced ex-Mayor and shameless identity politician Kwame Kilpatrick has been convicted on twenty-four counts of extortion, racketeering, and bribery. The stunningly corrupt politician, who looted from Detroit’s poor and needy to pay for a life of luxury he never earned, is going to jail. His life is ruined, and his family has been shamed.

It’s only fitting that today, a must-read piece in the NYT (co-authored by Mary Williams Walsh, one of the country’s most careful, thoughtful reporters on state and local pension issues) details the social and fiscal nightmare Detroit’s thugocracy has bequeathed to the young and vulnerable who still inhabit the ruined city. The latest bit of misery was unearthed by a financial consultant brought in to dig through Detroit’s books. He found “an additional $7.2 billion in retiree health costs that had never been reported, or even tallied up.” Until 2008, Detroit was not required to keep track of its workers’ lifetime health care bills. Now, of course, it’s the people who are least able to pay who will bear the brunt of this.

The report follows Detroit’s descent from one of America’s greatest cities into a Third World-style wasteland of incompetence and corruption where streetlights are dark, police don’t respond to calls, and the poor are left to fend for themselves. The process of ruin took decades and is the work of more than one generation of a degenerate political class. But Kwame Kilpatrick’s story is a reminder that the hyenas are still picking at what little is left of the city’s corpse.

Via Meadia certainly hopes that all involved here find peace with God. Indeed He will remember the afflicted and is ready to reach out to all of us no matter what we have done. But earthly justice requires serious jail time and the heaviest possible financial penalties that deprive these crooks and their families of every last cent in stolen money.

Too many of Kilpatrick’s colleagues and collaborators are still at large. And far too many of America’s big cities are cursed by deeply corrupt political machines that don’t just steal but also wreck the fabric of governance and deprive poor people of the services they need to have a chance at a better life.

Detroit’s sorry demise is a reminder that vigorous investigations and a zero tolerance policy for organized political crime is a pressing national priority. This is not an anti-black agenda, nor an anti-city one. It is a pro-poor, pro-urban agenda that fights to free American cities of one of the leading causes of blight and decay.

[Image of Kwame Kilpatrick courtesy of Shutterstock.com]

Published on March 12, 2013 2:13 pm