Travis Rowley: Detroit: A Lesson In Failed Liberalism
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Absent of conservative influence within city government for decades, it’s only natural to look toward the city’s Democratic leadership, and to dissect the direction that unions and progressives decided to take Detroit during the 20th century.
Referring to Detroit as a “union wasteland,” Kyle Smith of Forbes.com chronicled Detroit’s demise in an article titled “Detroit Gave Unions Keys To The City, And Now Nothing Is Left.”
You get the gist.
Detroit’s demise hasn’t been good for either of the two parties that are often set against one another – taxpayers and unionized government employees – whenever government grows beyond its appropriate size and leftists begin to use state power to redistribute private wealth.
Reminiscent of what public retirees underwent during Central Falls’ recent bankruptcy proceedings, thousands among Detroit’s retired municipal workforce – who largely put their faith and support behind Democratic promises and policies for years– “are set to get less than 10% of what they’re owed.”
And this week Republican Governor Rick Snyder illustrated Detroit’s deterioration by pointing to the fact that “response times for police in the city of Detroit are 58 minutes. The national average is 11 minutes.”
That’s what people have been receiving for their tax dollars in Detroit.
Detroit = Rhode Island
It’s important to note that the Motor City collapsed well before it officially declared its bankruptcy. As Governor Snyder explained, “This has been a period of decline of 60 years in Detroit.”
And here should be the concern of every Rhode Islander: If it can happen to such a large city, why can’t it happen to such a small state? Even worse, Has it already happened here?
Rhode Island is a state with frightening parallels to the City of Detroit, particularly in terms of the fact that our moribund economy was also once the envy of industrial wannabes, a state whose prosperity ultimately led the way for progressives to exploit the disparity of wealth that capitalism allows for.
Freedom would no longer be considered fair in Detroit or the Ocean State.
The same animal that began to devour Detroit was also formed right here, an alliance between organized labor, socialists, and the Democratic Party – a radical network that would ultimately lead Rhode Island to the shores of economic impotence, population loss, the depletion of public pensions, and the deterioration of public infrastructure.
The only reason these progressive experiments were able to last as long as they did, was because progressives learned to fund the governments they were able to siege by taxing future generations via unfunded pension systems, by allowing the roads and bridges to crumble, by slowly eradicating local business environments with confiscatory tax rates on corporations and high-income earners, and by redistributing outside wealth into their failing neighborhoods.
It should never be forgotten that, all along the way, there were people standing against the economic structure being established in Detroit, Rhode Island, and elsewhere – primarily conservative Republicans, who were sentenced to political insignificance for their resistance to all the “progress.”
Inside the pages of The Prince of Providence, Mike Stanton’s book that profiles Buddy Cianci’s political career, we find that in 1974 “Nobody knew what kind of reception Cianci would receive in a neighborhood where Republican was a dirty word. Older residents still remembered how the last Republican mayor, ‘Honest John’ Collins, had purged the city payroll during the Great Depression.”
As I once analyzed this passage, “As far back as the 1930s, Republicans were calling for sound financial decisions to be made, which often entailed taking a stand against public workers and a Democratic Party that has always considered it wise to redistribute wealth via government employment at the expense of the private sector.”
Forcing Democrats To Grow Up
Disingenuous politics – including political correctness, class warfare, and charges of racism – also piggybacked the progressive movement wherever it seeded itself, achieving years of extensions for their socialist projects.
Even at the moment of collapse for Detroit, RI Statehouse regular Dave Barber was there to offer Detroit one more reprieve. In regards to a potential federal bailout of the Motor City, Barber posted this to his Facebook page: “My heart is heavy. Once such a sensational city, now left to flounder. Do you think that because it's so black, [this] keeps our nation from helping? You betcha!”
And that’s how leftists have compelled the nation’s capitalists to subsidize the nation’s socialists for years.
But the decline is steady, and the collapse is always on its way. No matter how much money you throw at progressives, their neighborhoods and networks quickly consume it and come back for more.
Capitalism multiplies wealth. Socialism redistributes it, and then expunges it.
And at this point, it must be the ultimate form of naiveté to still suspect that progressives have the ability to comprehend any economic lesson that doesn’t compute with their Utopian vision. These aren’t people who are trying to establish sustainable societies. These are people on a quest to deliver “social justice.” Their sense of “fairness” is a moral crusade that they believe is more powerful than math.
Democrats are fully aware of Rhode Island’s looming obstacle to an economic resurgence – that is, the State’s deplorable business environment. Yet, just several weeks ago Rhode Island’s Democratically-dominated General Assembly passed a budget that failed to make any significant shifts in the state’s economic structure. Moreover, they yielded to organized labor by passing a bill that bestowed collective bargaining rights to daycare providers who are in business with the state – a “measure…designed to get more dues into the coffers of public-employee unions, at a frightening cost to the state’s taxpayers and the economy. It will serve as one more way to make Rhode Island uncompetitive economically and unattractive to business investors.” (Providence Journal)
This week Governor Snyder commented on just how much Detroit’s unfunded pension liabilities have to do with the city’s bankrupt status, a scenario that Rhode Island Democrats at this point are entirely familiar with: “Unfortunately in Detroit there was a lack of contribution. There were multiple cases of mismanagement that went on for a long period of time with respect to pension liabilities.”
Still, several weeks ago 36 out of 39 House Democrats voted for an initial budget proposal that “skip[ped] a $12.9 million payment into the state pension fund.”
And, in the City of Providence this week, the all-Democrat City Council once again decided to side with radical labor religionists against the city’s business community – threatening to “cut the municipal tax breaks for the owners of the Renaissance Hotel unless workers are given the right to unionize.”
Providence has given unions the keys to the city, and now nothing is left.
During Providence’s brush with bankruptcy over the past several years, we have often heard, “As goes Providence, so goes Rhode Island” – a cute and convenient slogan for those who want Rhode Island’s productive suburbanites to help sustain the progressive powerbase controlling the folding capital.
We shouldn’t fall for it.
Progressives are a disease traveling throughout the government bloodstream. They need to be cut off. They need to suffer the consequences of their own ideology.
In Michigan – in the face of all the Left’s wailing – Governor Snyder stood strong, allowing all of Michigan to witness the ugly underbelly of progressive policies by nudging Detroit toward a filing of bankruptcy; the “wasteland” that the taxpayers were forced to subsidize for decades.
Snyder decided that progressives need to go bankrupt. They need to be allowed to fail. Enough is enough. Progressives need to be treated like the children that they are.
Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.