Skip to comments.Detroit and the End of ‘Big Unit America’ (Michael Barone)
Posted on 06/03/2013 10:10:02 AM PDT by neverdem
The Motor City shows that the era of big government, big labor, and big business is long gone.
Detroit, once one of the nations most vibrant cities, faces imminent bankruptcy. Thats the headline from the report last month of emergency fiscal manager Kevyn Orr, issued 45 days after he was appointed this spring by Michigan governor Rick Snyder to take over the citys government.
The path Detroit has followed for more than 40 years is unsustainable, Orr said. And only a complete restructuring of the citys finances and operations will allow Detroit to regain its footing and return to a path of prosperity.
Its a tragic situation that one could regard as merely the fault of corrupt public officials. The most recent former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, has gone to prison. So has former City Council president pro tem Monica Conyers, the wife of Representative John Conyers (who has been in Congress for 48 years).
But Detroits problems are more fundamental. Detroit is an extreme case, but similar problems afflict many of our central cities.
As it happens, I was, in some small sense, present at the creation. I grew up in Detroit and in affluent suburban Birmingham, and in the summer of 1967, I was an intern in the office of Detroits liberal mayor, Jerome P. Cavanagh. That was the summer of Detroits six-day riot, in which 40 people were killed. Part of the time, I found myself in the misnamed command center with the mayor and Governor George Romney.
In my childhood, Detroit was proud of being the fifth-largest American city, the center of the auto industry, and the home of Hudsons, the nations second-largest department store. Detroits inventors, entrepreneurs, and financiers made it the second-fastest-growing city from 1900 to 1930, behind only Los Angeles, which started off much smaller. Newcomers poured in from eastern and southern Europe, from the farmlands of the Midwest and Ontario, from the hills of Appalachia and the Black Belt of Alabama to work in the factories.
Detroit was the prime example of what I have called Big Unit America, in which the heads of large organizations big business, big labor, big government made the big decisions and hundreds of thousands of people below them, small cogs in a very large machine, carried them out.
For a time, Big Unit America seemed to work splendidly. The Big Three automakers, with some cooperation from the United Auto Workers and at the behest of big government, made Detroit the arsenal of democracy. Arthur Herman tells the story in his most recent book, Freedoms Forge.
The big units prestige lasted for a generation after World War II. General Motors president was Times man of the year in 1955. John Kenneth Galbraiths 1967 book, The New Industrial State, argued that big automakers could manipulate demand through advertising and should share more of their inevitable profits with union members and the government.
That was just about the time the big units started to sputter. Detroits leaders didnt notice. White flight to the suburbs accelerated after the 1967 riot, and in 1973 Detroit elected its first black mayor, Coleman Young smart, charming, politically shrewd.
But his 20 years in office were disastrous for the city. He ended what he considered police brutality, and crime rates soared. There were hundreds of arsons every year on Devils Night, October 30. Young relied on big units for economic growth. Big government paid for projects such as the People Mover, which moved few people. The city condemned one of its few viable neighborhoods to make way for a General Motors plant. Unions developed a stranglehold on city finances.
Numbers tell the story. In 1950, there were 1,849,568 people in Detroit. In 2010, there were 713,777. White flight was followed by black flight; there were fewer black residents in 2010 than there were 20 years before. General Motors and Chrysler were forced into bankruptcy in 2009, and Hudsons downtown store was demolished in 1998.
Now Detroit has ineffective public services and overwhelming public obligations. Bankruptcy looms. The big unit model doesnt work anymore.
― Michael Barone, senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor, and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. © 2013 The Washington Examiner
Eh heh heh heh....big unit.
I wouldn’t look for it to get any better as long as they elect Democrats to run it.
Democrats want big government, big labor and the way they get it is by kissing big crony corporate a$$. Detroit is one of many cities that are reaping the rewards of democratic party politics.
Detroit. 97% Democrat. Literally.
They should film a Godzilla movie in d-town.
In the 1960’s Detroit had by far the highest household income, home ownership, automobile ownership, personal wealth and income of any city in the world. Then the liberal democrats took over and tried to steal the results of other people's hard work. The Democrats encouraged the criminals and the thieves and ruined everything. Then they declared themselves victims and demanded more free handouts.
” They should film a Godzilla movie in d-town.”
It would have an X rating.
Actually Godzilla would probably get sad and just leave.
Or wonder who beat him to the punch and trashed the place.
Won’t read Barone’s articles. He is the quintessential RINO.
Its not gone. It was moved to Red China.
Godzilla would be afraid to go there........
What's there to ruin? Where's the fun in that?
A microcosm of the "Fundamental Change" that awaits the rest of America under Obama.
Suit yourself. I can see why some think that way. He's way too smart to ignore, IMHO. Are you aware that he wants the USA's immigration system to use the Canadian and Australian models, i.e. we just take those with high skills and plenty of money?
Threads about Detroit are not something FR should be proud of anyway. Self Righteous ignorance seems to be a proud standard of FReepers when speaking of Detroit.
Things are changing in Detroit a great deal due to GOP control of the state but sadly some just can’t bear the thought of losing a favorite whipping boy when plenty of others are far more worthy of the “honor”.
Conservatives should be builders, not bitchers and Detroit provides the best opportunity to prove it that we’re gonna get.
Michael Barone’s more of a conservative Democrat, but whatever.
Barone knows more about U.S. politics than anyone else alive. Ignoring him won’t make you any smarter, or wiser.
For a time, Big Unit America seemed to work splendidly. The Big Three automakers, with some cooperation from the United Auto Workers and at the behest of big government, made Detroit the arsenal of democracy. Arthur Herman tells the story in his most recent book, Freedoms Forge.While Detroit is certainly important in Freedoms Forge, the book is actually about the national effort to produce for the British war effort and simultaneously prepare for American direct participation in WWII. The effort to help Britain before Pearl Harbor is the explanation for the fact that the US military was so ill-equipped in December, 1941 - and the effort to lay the groundwork for all-out production which had gone on concurrently and was essentially complete at that time explains why US production of war materiel was far greater than any other countrys. That effort included taking the New Deal boot at least partially off of the neck of American corporations, which is the real reason that the Depression ended. I found the book to be fascinating.