Will The Last Person To Leave Detroit Turn Off The Lights?
I had an office in Livonia, Michigan for a couple of years back in the Nineties, thus am well acquainted with the legendary Motor City. Detroit to me was always a mix of the best and the worst in America. On the one hand you had the gleaming downtown towers, the expansive, spotless shopping centers, and some of the nicest, most decent, salt of the earth people I have ever had the profound pleasure to get to know. Unfortunately on the other hand, you also had vast expanses of bombed out ghettos, a considerable percentage of areas of the city that you wouldn't want to venture into even if accompanied by a platoon of Marines, and a palpable constant fear of breaking down on the Edsel Ford Freeway in the middle of the night and never making it alive to the next ramp on foot.
Time has not been kind to Detroit. What was once the industrial heart of the continent, attracting people from all over who wished to work hard and share in the American Dream, has now become the poster child for the collapse of the American Empire. The Big Three followed the time honored dictum of "Aint No Substitute For Cubic Inches" at least a couple of decades too long and ended up eviscerating not only themselves and their shareholders, but also the entire economy of southern Michigan. Given the ripple effect of their failure, untold millions of jobs in related manufacturing and service industries throughout the United States and Canada could vanish, turning the current severe recession into a depression that could savage the entire next decade.
"What is good for General Motors is good for America" no longer equates, and the true surprise is that only a fool couldn't have seen it coming. The GM assembly line worker sucked out $74 an hour when the benefits, pension and "legacy" expenses were factored in, and received this compensation to produce cars of far lower build qualities than overseas competitors who essentially pay their workers pocket change and a bowl of rice a day. Globalization backfired in a drastic manner when the American worker, faced with one of the highest costs and standards of living in the world, had to compete on an even playing field with people who lived in an entirely different economic sphere, where ten bucks a day keeps a family housed and fed.
So what will happen to Detroit? Likely the same fate which formed that infamous dictum about Buffalo, NY: The only people there are the ones too broke or too stupid to leave. The Rust Belt, which was once the manufacturing powerhouse of the world, is now largely irrelevant. Sure, you can live there, but why? Maybe the economic situation wouldn't be too much better south or west, but at least you don't have to shovel the white stuff six months of the year.
Perhaps Detroit can be turned into a solution for the homeless problem of the entire country. Ship the homeless to the Motor City and give them any one of the thousands of houses that have been and will be abandoned. After all, there are Rust Belt cities right now that are tearing up some suburban streets since there is no one left living on them, and that way they don't have to provide expensive city services to what have become 21st century ghost towns.
In the only video game I ever play, SimCity3000, a simulated city's economic vitality can be suppressed by tweaking the settings. Then you watch the entire metropolis gradually crumble and die before your very eyes. It seems that the Big Guy Upstairs has decided to tweak the settings on DetroitCity2009, and the decline is clearly visible. Heck, it isn't just in the city's population and infrastructure. As I write this, Detroit's football Lions are a couple of days away from achieving a low point that no NFL team has ever reached: 0-15. It seems like it isn't just the rest of the league that's beating up on Detroit, but fate itself. Yes, the Red Wings did win the Stanley Cup. But that's hockey. It doesn't count. There is nothing left in Detroit but memories and rust.
Therefore... Will the last person to leave Detroit turn off the lights?