The past week, a couple of people in the media threw around the comedic notion that the Detroit bankruptcy is an example of the failures of Republican policy. There are many things to blame on Republicans, like the failures of the No Child Left Behind program, or massive increases in defense spending not correlated to defense; But Detroit's failure to have any semblance of fiscal sanity is not one of them.
The story of Detroit isn't a matter of the failure of Republicans or Democrats, but the failure of big government. Detroit is what happens when there is large scale unionism, massive bureaucracy, and decades of single party control of government. The fairy tale turned nightmare of Detroit goes a little something like this:
Once upon a time, a quaint little French fur-trading outpost grew into an industrial powerhouse. This transition to a powerhouse was fostered, in part, by the Progressive movement of the late 1800s, which initially focused on freeing the poor and countering the evil of corrupt politicians and their crony relationships with saloon keepers. Into the picture drives Sir Henry Ford upon a chariot made of steel. He brandished his sword, the assembly line, to bring prosperity to all the people of the land. As manufacturing grew, so did the desires of workers, who engaged in "Fordism": working for their wages to pay for their goods that they were making. This way, all prospered. Before Sir Ford, there was destitution. Now, there was success and the American Dream.
As time grew on, everyone expected the wages would rise with the relative prosperity of the country: Everyone loved cars, and most countries were either Red with the Communists, rebuilding from World War II, or simply underdeveloped and under colonized. This made it easy to be prosperous. Riding high on adulation of FDR, unions and larger government permeated into the culture of Detroit. Sir Ford fought the unions until 1941, when his right-to-work mentality was vanquished by the Power of The People. The Great Society, built on the same unrealistic expectations as Detroit's, only further cemented the idea that the American Dream would last forever, as long as it was made in America.
But the world, as it always does, changed. The countries that once weren't economically prosperous began participating in the global economy, using a magical elixir called Outsourcing, brewed by the evil Capitalists out of low-skilled jobs and access to labor. Once the far away kingdoms of India and China had access to the elixir, the importance of the one grand kingdom of Detroit dwindled into the distance. People left the kingdom in droves, over 25% from the years of 2001 to the present, fleeing for their safety from one of the most dangerous Kingdoms in the land with a 47% literacy rate and high unemployment. Those who were left were stuck with being serfs to the debts of the Kingdom's public pensions, all the gold from the Golden Years draining away, to the tune of $3.6 billion.
As the Detroit plunged further into fiscal oblivion, the rest of the United States watched and waited to see if Uncle Sam would step in to save the day ....
Since we are blaming this on the Republicans, we should consider any of their policy solutions as DOA. You know, like adjusting how benefits for public sector employees are delivered, cut government spending, privatize certain elements, etc. I guess the options we have left are to raise taxes and spend more? If simply spending more worked, then Detroit wouldn’t have this problem. Their problem has been spending more than they have, and this issue will continue until both Democrats AND Republicans realize that the problem is not who is in power, but the (ab)use of government power. It’s impossible to say that Detroit’s problems are reflective of Republican policy, since the last time they elected a Republican Mayor was in 1957. It’s impossible to say austerity is the problem, as in February the surplus projected after austerity measures were implemented was worth $6 million.
No, the sad thing is that Detroit’s problems are examples of America’s problems. This fairy tale nightmare is more of a preview than something we can awake from. Until we realize that both parties spend out of control, no amount of austerity or stimulus will have much effect.
This post originally appeared on the Urban Libertarian.