Lions and Tigers and FAIL, Oh My… That the city of Detroit is a FAIL is not in question (more here, here, here, and here). That it is this big of a FAIL was made apparent with the 2010 Census results. In its heyday (1950s) Detroit had almost 2 million residents. Home of the Big Three US auto manufacturers, Detroit was an industrial and economic powerhouse. Today, it is an economic and industrial wasteland that has lost more than half of its population and more are fleeing every day. Current predictions are that Detroit’s population may sink to below 500,000 by the end of the decade.
Detroit’s population has fallen steadily since the heyday of the auto industry in the 1950s, when it peaked around two million, but the declines have accelerated in recent years as manufacturing jobs have disappeared and the mortgage crisis has devastated even stable, middle-class neighborhoods. The number of vacant housing units doubled in the past decade to nearly 80,000, more than one-fifth of the city’s housing stock, the Census Bureau reported.
“For those of us who have been out in the neighborhoods, we knew that the foreclosures and the abandonment were really extreme and accelerating,” said Lyke Thompson, director of Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies. “The question is, can you put a bottom under it?”
In 1950, Detroit was the fifth-largest city in America, behind New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and it was in the top 10 as recently as the 1990 Census. Now, Detroit is likely to fall to 19th, behind Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio.
Former NBA star Dave Bing is the mayor of Detroit and according to most sources, he’s been trying very hard to turn the city around. Bing replaced former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, currently serving time in a federal prison for a variety of corruption charges. Mayor Bing is said to be incredulous about the Census results and will likely call for a recount – mostly because Detroit will lose federal (taxpayer) money.
The flight of middle-class African-Americans to the suburbs fueled an exodus that cut Detroit’s population 25% in the past decade to 713,777, according to Census Bureau data released Tuesday. That’s the city’s lowest population level since the 1910 census, when automobile mass production was making Detroit Detroit.
The decline, the fastest in city history, shocked local officials, who had expected a number closer to 800,000. Mayor Dave Bing said the city would seek a recount.
“If we could go out and identify another 40,000 people that were missed, and it brings us over the threshold of 750,000, that would make a difference from what we can get from the federal and state government,” Mr. Bing said at a news conference Tuesday.
In all, the city lost more than 237,000 residents, including 185,000 blacks and about 41,000 whites. The Hispanic population ticked up by 1,500. Meanwhile, the black population in neighboring Macomb County more than tripled to 72,723, constituting 8.6% of the county’s population in 2010, compared with 2.7% a decade earlier. Oakland County’s African-American population rose 36% to 164,078.
While Bing has made some positive changes, the answer shouldn’t be finding 40,000 phantom residents so they can get more taxpayer money. They should instead focus on fixing the problems that continue to drive residents from the city. This article (from the WSJ) explains how massive infusions of taxpayer money, coupled with failed social and economic policies, have turned Detroit into a wasteland.
Most Americans did not need to be told that Detroit is in a bad way, and has been for some time. Americans know all about white flight, greedy unions and arrogant auto executives. The recent census numbers, however, put an exclamation mark on a cold fact: A once-great American city today repels people of talent and ambition.
“Detroit is a classic example of how a culture that was legendary for enterprise and innovation was slowly eroded by toxic politicization from the 1960s on,” says the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Michigan-based Acton Institute. “It’s been class warfare on steroids, and the inevitable result is that so many Detroiters who had the means—black and white—have fled the city.”
Another way of putting it is this: Unlike New Orleans and Japan, the ruin we see in Detroit is entirely man-made.
While the decline of the US auto industry has had a huge impact on the city, Detroit’s problems go deeper and are systemic.
What happened to this Detroit? In many ways the answer is liberal politics and expanding government. In the 1960s, for example, Detroit became one of Lyndon Johnson’s “Model Cities.” That meant it was on the receiving end of hundreds of millions of federal dollars to transform a nine-mile-square section of the city. It would be just the first of many government-funded redevelopment schemes that left behind one of the most blighted urban landscapes in the nation.
Notwithstanding its failures, government continued to grow while city services—e.g., police and fire protection—continued to decline. Whites moving to the suburbs took much of the tax base out of the city in the 1960s. The latest census numbers show that blacks are now following in the path of the whites before them. Apparently they don’t like crime and the lack of decent schools for their kids either.
What’s left is the city so embarrassingly exposed by the census figures, a place that people are fleeing as fast as they can. Think of all the dysfunctional measures you can: poverty rates, unemployment, crime, failing public schools, falling home values. Detroit has them all, and most of its indicators rank among the worst in the nation.
The epitome of government FAIL…