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Urban Problem Bigger Than Detroit

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

We are now hearing the usual voices of protest in Detroit in the wake of Michigan governor Rick Snyder appointing an outside expert to take over financial management of the near-bankrupt city.


Detroit is the largest city in American history to be seized in this fashion and turned over to an outside manager.

Reported deficit of the city is $327 million dollars and long-term liabilities are in the range of $14 billion.

But no matter to the unions, politicians, and bureaucrats who have been at the helm for years as the city has spiraled into the depths of the black hole in which it now finds itself. These interest groups, who have been the driving force behind this fiscal travesty, have one interest – to keep their respective beds feathered. Citizens and public welfare be damned.

So they cry foul when adult supervision is sent in to take on the formidable rescue task.

The man Governor Snyder has put in charge, Kevin Orr, is a high-powered Washington, DC black attorney who, according to USA Today, “has extensive experience in municipal finances, public infrastructure projects, public pension matters, and litigation.”

Al Sharpton’s man in Detroit, Rev. Charles Williams III, has called Orr an “Uncle Tom.”

The travesty now taking place in Detroit should be carefully watched by all Americans. This is not a one off exception to the rule, but is just the latest case study of a pathology dragging down the whole nation. And it’s a pathology for which low-income minority Americans are paying the dearest price.


Economist Dr. Walter Williams has noted that the common denominator of the nation’s ten poorest cities with populations over 250,000, of which Detroit is number one, is that they all have been controlled by liberal, Democratic mayors for decades, the majority of which have been black.

Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, son of former congresswoman and Congressional Black Caucus member Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, is now in jail awaiting sentencing after being convicted on 24 counts for running a criminal enterprise out of the mayor’s office.

The point is that we need to discern a rule of thumb here: the more that human lives are governed by compulsion and entitlement rather than freedom, choice, and personal responsibility, the outcomes are uniformly undesirable.

Compulsion and entitlement, meaning liberal government and union power, means less service, less efficiency, more fraud, corruption, and waste, and insensitivity to changes in the marketplace.

If we are going to save our cities, we need to get back to what built them in the first place: freedom, enterprise, and entrepreneurship.

It took a hurricane and a flood to wake up and turn around the basket case that was New Orleans. Ray Nagin, New Orleans’ mayor during Katrina, who blamed everyone but himself for the debacle that occurred, was just indicted on 21 counts of corruption.


New Orleans is now undergoing a renaissance. The public school system was turned over to a charter operator and the number of failing schools has dropped and test scores are improving.

Low taxes and a new spirit of entrepreneurship, spurred by such imaginative initiatives as Idea Village, has kept unemployment in New Orleans at less than two-thirds the national average.

Let’s get going with ideas like urban enterprise zones, championed by the late Congressman Jack Kemp, and now by economist Art Laffer, and give preferential tax treatment to employers and employees in blighted urban areas.

Abolish the minimum wage in these areas and give kids a chance at entry-level jobs and learning critical job skills.

The possibilities are only limited by our courage and imagination. But only one theme will save our large, urban cities, and their poor minority citizens.

Get them out from under political and union control and restore freedom, competition, and entrepreneurship.

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