Detroit is already there. 911 calls sometimes go unanswered. Two-thirds of the population left town.
As usual, the politicians want to try more of the same. They constantly come up with plans, but the plans are always big, simple-minded ones that run roughshod over the thousands of little plans made by ordinary citizens. Politicians want new stadiums, new transportation schemes, housing projects.
Andrew Rodney, a documentary filmmaker from Detroit, says many bad, big-government ideas that have plagued the U.S. were tried out first in Detroit. "It's the first city to experience a lot of the planning that went into a lot of cities."
Home loan subsidies, public housing, stadium subsidies, a $350 million project called "Renaissance Center" (the city ended up selling it for just $50 million), an automated People Mover system that not many people feel moved to use (it moves people in only one direction), endless favors to unions -- if a government idea has failed anywhere in America, there's a good chance it failed in Detroit first.
And if you criticized them for it, politicians like former Mayor Coleman Young called you a racist. "To attack Detroit is to attack black," Young said. That tends to shut critics up.
But the laws of economics apply to us all.
Insulated from serious criticism, insulated from economic reality, Detroit thought somehow it'd muddle through -- until now. There is a big lesson, if people elsewhere are willing to learn before it's too late.