For anyone who gives a tinker's damn, the city of Detroit, Michigan has filed for bankruptcy. You can read all about this situation in about eighty bazillion places on the Internet, but at the end of the day they all say the same thing: The city of Detroit is dead broke and in hock right up past the tallest smoke stack in Detroit - which hasn't been contributing to air pollution since 1973.
Once we find a solution for air pollution, we discover we can't afford it. Go figure, right? No one except the members of the Detroit city council needed a crystal ball to find out Detroit was in severe financial trouble, and has been in trouble for years. The proverbial icing on the cake was when Kwame Kilpatrick was elected Mayor of Detroit. Kwame was (and remains) corrupt, arrogant and stupid. He got caught stealing money from the city, and once he and his office were investigated Kwame racked up a list of felonies longer than - well, pretty long.
Although this isn't much more than a news item for most of the world, because if you don't live in Detroit you aren't affected, it's a train wreck of catastrophic proportions to others. Keep reading for my take on it and my rant about it.
Say you're a young, not terribly bright high school graduate. You're born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. You make it through High School, graduating in 1965 or so. You might be the first person in your family to graduate high school, as a lot of Detroit residents emigrated to Detroit from Appalachia to get the good jobs in the factories. Your options are limited, but you can go to work for the city of Detroit. The money's good, the benefits are better and the retirement is solid - you'll get a nice pension when you retire. You can go to Florida, complain that the kids never call and quietly drink yourself into oblivion whenever it suits you. Nice, huh? So you put in your time.
Now it's 2013, you're 60, maybe 65 years old. Just about ready to retire and call it quits. No more Detroit winters. But then you hear that the city is going broke, which seems incredible. The Union should protect you through all this business, none of which you really understand, but now the Union is looking a little shaky too.
How do you feel about losing your job? And your pension? And your health benefits which you were promised?
You're well over 50 with limited marketable skills and a health problem or two. I got news for you Charlie. Ain't nobody looking to hire you anytime soon. Not anytime later, either.
In theory, ObamaCare should cover your lost health care benefits, but the problem with ObamaCare is that it won't cover your lost health care benefits. In fact, ObamaCare may well be a non-starter.
The city of Detroit is laying people off left and right, and they can do without you. You can file for unemployment, sure, but unemployment runs out and then what?
In 1950 Detroit, Michigan had so much money flowing through it that any 16 year old who wanted a job could start walking at 8:00 AM and by noon he'd have a job. Maybe not a job with a real future, but a job. Give it a week or two and the same 16 year old could have a good job, and by that I mean a job with benefits and wages high enough to support yourself and have a few bucks left over at the end of the week. That was still true in 1960, but in 1970 things were taking a turn for the worse. Things were bad in 1980, but they were going to get better in 1990, and then there was the Y2K spike in 1999. In 2000 no one with any sense actually believed the Detroit economy would get better; they were just hoping it wouldn't tank during their lifetime.
What we're seeing here in 2013 is the result of 63 years of greed and corruption. Greed on the part of the automotive industry at all levels and in all facets, from the board room to the labor unions to the suppliers, and the same greed on the part of the supporting industries. Greed and corruption from the government. Detroit is bleeding money and has been for a long, long time. Detroit city council could have, at the very least, staunched the flow of blood. Instead they ordered transfusions and demanded more and more and still more for their stupid pet projects. They denied the obvious, refused to listen to the truth.
And now it's done.
The city of Detroit, Michigan is over $18,000,000,000 (eighteen billion dollars) in debt with absolutely no way to pay it off. It's dead and damned broke with no one to blame except city government.
Individually, the members of city government are not going to suffer. They belong in prison, but they'll all retire with full benefits and absolutely golden health care. The people who will really and truly suffer are the workers over fifty and the retirees, all of whom will have their pensions and benefits cut beyond the bone.
And that, right there, is a crime.