Category Archives: Racism

Is America Sending Young Inner City Blacks False Sonar

beached-whales-australia-photo3463
In capitalist societies, we typically are responsible for the choices we make. Some make bad life choices. But when a massive segment of society continues to make poor life choices, do we not have to question whether or not it is the individual or the circumstances in which they were placed?

For instance, what causes a pod of whales to beach themselves? Are these bad life choices or are they the best choices given the circumstances? If ship sonar signals these whales to turn to shallow waters where they become beached, is it the whales that are too be blamed or is it the ship? And what of baby sea turtles that turn away from the sea, thinking that house lights are the moon, and die of exhaustion?

Given societies signals, are the choices that young, inner city blacks make that end in dropping out of school, turning to gangs, making cash in illegal activities, failing to achieve job skills and living off the system poor choices? If they are, why does such a high percentage of young black make these same choices generation after generation, city after city across America?

I contend that the system provides erroneous sonar, false lights to follow if you will. And our capitalist system works whether the trade is legal or not. Without a legit signal of a living wage to swim toward, our inner city youth strand themselves on the beach. It is this false signal that is the basis of institutional racism that still persists in our country.

Perhaps it is through no fault of any individual. Who is not aware of the probabilities of high crime rates involving black youth. It would be hard not to react to such probabilities and no one can be blamed for self preservation. Yet, these signals create pathways for individuals to interact that in themselves can create institutional racism. It is these false signals which must be broken through conscious effort if we are to reduce its effect on our inner cities.

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Racism as Viewed from the Extreme Right of America Needs to be Understood If We are to Move Forward

TrayvonMartinHoodedYesterday, I spent the day deep within a rightwing chat group that was in the midst of discussing the Trayvon Martin case. Trayvon’s death has created vitriol on both sides of the political divide and once again displays America’s ongoing racial tensions for the entire world. To get a pulse on the extreme right’s 2013 views regarding America’s racism, I engaged the group.

Not wanting sugar coated, political correctness, I stirred the hornet’s nest a bit knowing that angry bees usually sting with conviction. The raw opinions expressed were startling but real. No more startling than those on the left, the right extreme of America sees racism, however, in a vastly different light. Before America can come together to solve our nation’s enduring problems of race, we must first understand that a huge gap does exist, and more importantly, why it exists. Only then can we resolve our differences.

As you will see by the comments, some on the right deny that racism even exists. And when agreeing that it does exist, some say it doesn’t rise to the level of many other problems facing America. I contend, however, that racism is a major cause of many of our other critical issues and that none of these can be solved without reducing the impacts of racism.

Not only does racism tear down the dignity of its victims, but racism also harms its perpetrators. It retards everyone’s prosperity, slows our economy, forfeits jobs, destroys communities, and steals hope and happiness from millions of Americans. Reducing racism’s impact should be is a top priority that demands the attention of our generation.

If racism actually does so much harm, why then do so many think as this group I visited? And if their beliefs are so deeply ingrained, can progress really be made without trying to understand their views? With that question in mind, I share the thoughts expressed yesterday from this right-wing group. The comments have been altered to protect the privacy of the commenters. I caution that you may be dismayed by these comments, yet they are deeply held beliefs of a sizable segment of America.

DOES RACISM EXIST IN AMERICA?

“Racism does not exist today. Racists are long gone and dead.”

“Slavery has been gone for 150 years. How long does it take to heal the wounds?”

“Racism would be nonexistent if the political class and media didn’t get power and money from it.”

“We have no racism in America. Everyone has the same freedoms. Personal responsibility means we each must take advantage of our freedoms.”

“Racism is from older generations, not my generation and younger. We do not know racism.”

“Racism is a blame game that is fostered by the people who profit from the enslaved remaining enslaved.”

“Racism is more with blacks against whites than with whites against blacks.”

“We live in a post racist society”

“Most often it is those that call whites racist that are the racists themselves.”

“Racists are bigots of low expectations for blacks. “

WHAT PROBLEMS DOES RACISM CAUSE?

“Rather than racism, inner city families major issue is poor education caused by drugs gangs, welfare, and broken families.”

“The root causes of racism are bad education, dependency on welfare and denial of God”

“When we pay mothers to have illegitimate babies, they have more. Paying for illegitimate babies destroyed families, and destroyed a worthwhile black culture.”

“High black unemployment is not due to racism. It is due to jail, police records, single parent families, gangs, drugs, and high school dropouts. These problems have nothing to do with racism.”

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO SOLVE RACISM?

“Racism is not my problem.”

“Blacks need to take responsibility for their lives.”

“It is time for Black America to clean up their own communities. It is their responsibility to fix their schools, their drugs, and their gangs.”

“There is nothing more that white America can do to fix black problems of unwed mothers, or black’s disdain for education and jobs.”

“The black community is the only one that can fix their own culture.”

“Stop trying to convince us that there is huge racism in this country. People who do that promote racism.”

“Constantly talking about racism and using it to blame others fosters more racism.”

“Blacks need to grow up, get off entitlements and work like all other minorities have done in America.”

“Blacks need to stop following race baiting leaders like Sharpton and Jackson that flame the race issue.”

“Blacks need to stop harboring hatred and racism towards whites for what happened over 100 years ago. This attitude corrupts America.”

“Racism was not caused by my relatives. We immigrated after the Civil War.”

“Quit manufacturing the issue of institutional racism.”

“All that can be done through Congress has been done. In fact, Congress has over legislated to the point of causing reverse racism.”

“Labeling everything as racist is irritating. Let’s stop labeling ourselves racists and instead just label ourselves American.”

“Stop giving people what they should earn. Giving destroys pride and self worth and that destroys drive and hope.”

“Shoving trillions of dollars into the black community did not fix overwhelming poverty and is not the answer.”

“Whites do not make blacks behave badly. Blacks must reduce their crime, illegitimate births, dependence on welfare, offensive behaviors and speech, and their antipathy to education. They must get serious about assimilating into mainstream American culture.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH LIBERALS REGARDING RACISM

“Liberals believe that blacks cannot succeed without their superior kindness and care. They don’t believe that blacks are their equal. Calling them victims feeds their self-serving benevolence.”

“Liberals would rather provoke race wars that cause deaths of f thousands than admit that blacks bear responsibility for their failures.”

“It is easier for liberals to tell blacks that their problem is caused by hateful whites than that to tell them it is because of their own sloth, dishonesty and lack of moral standards.”

———————————–

There you have it. At one extreme, American whites are frustrated by the existence of racism and deny responsibility for it. They believe that America has done more than any other country to make up for our sins of the past and that blacks must now do for themselves to eradicate irresponsible behavior and join the rest of society.

At the end of the Civil War, Black leaders asked that Lincoln provide freedmen forty acres of farmable land and a mule. They didn’t ask to be fed and clothed and kept in housing without contributing to society. They were asking to be given a hand up to economic freedom with the ability to work their land and to provide for their families through their own labors. Forty acres and a mule represented a living wage at the end of the Civil War. It was a path to America’s recovery.

America has done much to recover from the sins of our past. The impacts of racism are not nearly as great for many as they were at the end of the Civil War. Yet, in all that has been accomplished in past 145 years, the one thing that was asked of Lincoln in 1864 has never been accomplished. Achieving the equivalent of 40 acres and a mule, a living wage by today’s standard, has yet to be accomplished for millions of blacks in America’s inner cities.

What is needed is a level start and a living wage. Until we pair economic freedom with political freedom, America will not have reached closure with our past. The comments above suggest that one segment of our society believes we have more than surpassed that point. Their visceral responses suggest that much more understanding must be sought between America’s extremes.

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Detroit is the hole that Mike’s Steam Shovel Dug

mikes shovel
Who here remembers the story about Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel? Detroit’s problem is like Mike’s. Mike’s steam shovel, Mary Anne, wasn’t as nifty as new diesel shovels, just like land-locked Detroit auto plants were not as nifty as new, single story automated ones. But Mike vowed to work hard building a basement hole for city hall, so he and Mary Anne got the job. They dug a great big hole but with no way to get out of it.

Detroit dug a big hole with no way out too! Everything Detroit did to help herself didn’t slow the hole getting deeper, and her city hall was left with a dilapidated steam shovel in its basement. Detroit’s impossible hole is that it needs good paying jobs for its illiterate citizens….period. It’s that simple and that difficult.

As auto jobs left, whites left with them. Blacks could not qualify for federal housing loans because of federally supported racism and could not enter communities built up around the new plants because of restrictive covenants. So the low level jobs that the auto manufacturers allowed them to have went away.

Now, they were left in the city with poorly supported schools with few good paying jobs. Crime got worse. Family situations got worse. Home values plummeted. City revenues dropped. And as the city blight worsened while the outer suburbs improved, new businesses chose to build in growing, safer areas rather than in the city. Dig, dig, dig…

The diesel shovel jobs that competed with Mary Anne steam shovel, those jobs that illiterates in the inner city of Detroit, 47% of her citizens by some accounts, could qualify for, they are growing at 10% per year in Eastern countries but paying well less than the mandated minimum wage in Detroit.

America created an economic infrastructure that produced generations of illiterate Detroiters. Our failure to face institutional racism kept our most oppressed of citizens corralled in the city. Our elites took away jobs that illiterates could have worked. Now, our latest generation of Detroiters sit in a basement hole with no chance at earning a living wage as an alternative to crime and dysfunctional communities.

In the story, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”, because he was stuck in the hole, he created a living wage in the hole by converting his steam shovel into the new city hall furnace, making a living wage to provide the city hall with heat.

America, having created this impossible hole, must now create living wages for our tens of thousands of illiterate unemployed, and we must vow to create a future economic infrastructure that does not dig such impossible holes. Political intransigence must now make way for a willingness to fix the problem.

I wrote an article in 2011, explaining the mechanisms of job transfer to Asia that is worth reading, Called How China Ate America’s Lunch…

http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/how-china-ate-americas-lunch

China was ready to take back its world leadership in 1978 after “150 years of shame” and America’s elite were all too willing to sell out our posterity to help them. Detroit’s bankruptcy was foretold by the decimating our middle class to fund China’s emergence.

Yet, just as was seen in the Arab Spring, it is the fringes of society that break first. While the whole of our middle class is having its life slowly drained, those poor souls on the outer edges, such as our citizens in the inner city of Detroit, are the ones whose life supply of economic blood is the thinnest. They die first.

Detroit is America’s problem to fix.

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Filed under American Governance, American Politics, Capitalism, China, City Planning, Class warfare, Full Employment, Jobs, Racism

“Do the Right Thing” Detroit!

spike lee“Do the Right Thing”, Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed film about racial tensions leading to a riot in Brooklyn is a poetic description of tensions brewing again in Detroit. In his movie, the heat of the summer drenched the neighborhood in frustration as racial prejudices simmered and then snapped in a triggering event that led to a rioting climax.

Detroit is a city, region, and state that seems destined to repeat its failures of the past. Embroiled in its latest crisis, the answer seems once again that a white majority will impose its will on a black, oppressed minority. How fairly that the white majority’s will is imposed will be critical to the measure of civil reaction, but nonetheless, unless found to be unconstitutional, it’s voting majority will be imposed. Rather than work to build revenues through a viable plan, the state has hired an emergency manager whose responsibility will be to impose austerity on the city.

Detroit’s fiscal problem of too few citizens covering pension and infrastructure costs of a bygone era that had 250% of its current population will be met by a state that has drawn a battle line with Proposal 2. The short term solution, given this paradigm, will be to impose some austerity. In Greece and in London, this solution has created riots. In London, the first riots occurred just because meetings were occurring to discuss what austerity measures would be imposed later. Could the sweltering summer of 2013 be the breaking point for Detroit?

Voicing this issue will no doubt raise the ire of Detroiters that may be concerned that merely mentioning the word riot could inspire would be rioters to carry on Detroit’s tradition. However, if the slightest possibility exists that racial tensions are now such that civil unrest could be a result of future measures to be imposed, then reasoning in relative safety of pre-action discourse is a safety valve on the issue. Raising the question should be viewed dispassionately as part of the solution to the potential problem that is brewing.

The white majority, now living in the suburbs, left Detroit. The city now must pay for pensions and infrastructure that were incurred to support suburbians, their parents and their grandparents, before they left for the suburbs. Now after having used Detroit’s infrastructure, and after having left the legacy costs to a much smaller, entrapped, vastly black population of Detroit Proper to pay for them, the white majority is going to impose austerity on this entrapped population to pay for those past services and infrastructure.

This scenario, however correct or flawed in its interpretation, is what will be the match that lights the tender box of continuing institutional racism in Michigan. History has shown that a small youth gang disturbance, or a police scene at a party is all that is needed to leave scores dead and hundreds injured when such rife brews undetectable at the surface.

In Spike Lee’s movie, a wise elderly town drunk with a good and decent heart that the neighborhood calls “the mayor” tries to stop the riot that begins to build through reasoning with the people on the street. But by the time a riot erupts, reasoning is an obsolete tool of political leadership. Kevin Orr must do what he must do now that the state has imposed its will. The time for reason, community involvement, understanding, and hope for a future after austerity is now. The time for a viable plan for Detroit’s citizens to rise from this bottom is now. The time to add such a plan that brings real hope is now!

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To Grow Detroit, Invest in People

18eatonacademyTo grow a city, one must have a blueprint…one that organizes the resources, that multiplies livability, and that increases the vitality of the city as it is progressively implemented each generation.

Detroit’s original blueprint was one of an iron muscle, people living in close quarters to their factories, with all basic amenities of a roaring blue collar town close by and with the energy of community in the forefront.

The definition of livability continues to adapt to the evolving way we interact with each other. The blueprint for a “New Paris of the Midwest” will be different than Detroit’s original footprint. In a way, the blight that has affected a third of Detroit’s acreage is a silver lining that makes way for a new, more vibrant Detroit.

Now, real, functioning structure must be laid atop the blueprint. The city must have the working infrastructure of commerce and community. Detroit must have functioning roads, trash removal, police, fire, EMS, courts, city planning, administration, and all of the means of governance that allow the city to efficiently grow, minimizing artificial impediments.

For a city to prosper economically, the city’s culture must be amenable to growth, to collaboration and innovation. Its people must want to share in the fruits of their labor so that everyone who contributes to the multiplying wealth of the city prospers as well. And the city must be inviting to all who would venture in with new ideas and capital.

With the rudiments of success in place, the city must commence preparing its people for growth. Each person is an asset that brings value to the city. How each person is molded as they pass through the infrastructure of the city from birth through adulthood will determine the wealth potential of the city.

A child can be nurtured through city’s infrastructure complex and can come out the other side ready to earn $250,000 a year contributing to the city’s growth. That same child can be trampled through the system and come out the other side a negative burden in the city’s welfare. The efficiency and focus of the city’s infrastructure in placing that child on a higher plane of earning potential then determines the ultimate wealth of the city.

Multiply the average preparation value of each child times the number of children exiting the preparation system and you can predict the direction of the city. If the average preparation value falls below a sustainable level, the value of the city will fall. I suggest that allowing a city to graduate only 22% of its students with only 2% ready for college is well below the level to sustain a city’s wealth.

No amount of Downtown facades will correct the deficiency of the city’s engine of growth, its people. Detroit, it is time to set your infrastructure on course with a thriving path.

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DETROIT’S SOLUTION

Anniversary Rededication CollageIf the key to a successful Detroit Revival is lowering crime, and if the key to lowering crime is to reform our schools and to put everyone to work making living wages, can we not just get on with putting everyone to work making living wages? Well, it is not that simple. For one, there is a cost to putting everyone to work making living wages. Yet putting everyone back to work also has benefits.

We will examine both the cost of putting people back to work and the benefits of doing so. Yet, before we get started, I can tell you that the benefits of putting everyone in Detroit back to work are at least 10 times the cost. If I am correct, isn’t it a slam-dunk decision that we should get on with paying the cost, and putting everyone to work. The short answer is of course, absolutely yes!

However, the political difficulty of such a decision is in determining fairly who will pay the cost and who will gain the benefit. For instance, all levels of government will benefit to some degree. Yet, no mechanism exists for government to share in the cost in proportion to benefits received.

Since the benefits outweigh the costs by so much, and in fact are the difference between Detroit thriving and withering, we absolutely must find the way to overcome the political obstacles that have held back the city for so long, and have cost Detroit a trillion dollars in the last half-century.

That said, let us start by just examining the direct costs and direct benefits of putting people back to work. Remember that the direct benefits are only a fraction of total benefits, and yet as we will see, direct benefits are already twice the cost even before determining fair payments and benefits.

What is the cost to put 100,000 people to work? If factories are profitable after employing them, then the net cost is zero. But we know that 40,000 labor-intensive factories have left our shores for the East, partly because the cost of labor in America made them unprofitable here.

Yet at $4 per hour, a factory might be able to compete with overseas factories that have shipping costs on top of labor. If a government were to subsidize the factory’s labor cost so that the factory could pay a worker $12 per hour and yet have an equivalent labor cost of $4 per hour, the factory could have a net profit and the cost to the government would then be $8 per employee hour worked.

If for instance, a government entered into contracts for companies to build factories in Detroit and those companies employed 33,000 workers, the cost to that government would be $550 million dollars annually.

What about the 140,000 businesses in the Detroit area, could they hire more employees? Businesses generally hire people in response to demand, yet there is a gray area of demand that makes businesses begin to think about hiring without actually making the decision to pull the trigger and hire.

What if businesses were given an economic incentive to hire? Could an additional 33,000 employees be hired this way? What would the incentive need to be to increase demand for employees? One way to determine an acceptable incentive would be to have each individual business tell the government what the incentive must be and for the government to decide whether or not that incentive was acceptable.

A formal method to accomplish this task would be to hold a job subsidy auction each month and to have companies bid on acceptable subsidies. Then the government could decide how many jobs to subsidize each month and what the clearing subsidy price must be each month to incentivize hiring. Suppose that 33,000 employees were hired through this process at an average $5 per hour incentive rate. The annual cost of incentives plus administration of the program might be $350 million.

In addition, as factories come to Detroit and as businesses expand, adding labor, the money spent by these business multiplies through the local economy. More money is spent in restaurants, more is spent at the barber, more is spent on Doctors. Additional labor is needed to cover the needs of an expanding economy. Suppose the remaining 34,000 are hired to support the growing economy without subsidy. The total gross cost then for a government to expand the economy by 100,000 workers would be $900 million dollars annually, or $9,000 per employee, a rather inexpensive investment.

So if the cost to government of creating a hiring mechanism for 100,000 employees is $900 million, what is the direct benefit just to government of having these 100,000 employees hired? These individuals will now be taxpayers and the direct costs of social safety nets will be lessened. The revenues generated through their new employment that is directly attributed to them is almost double the expense of employing them. Yet these benefits only begin to scratch the surface of benefits.

(in millions)
Federal Income Tax….100
State Income Tax…….175
City Income Tax…… …60
Utility Tax………… …..10
Additional sales tax……40
Social Security……… 375
Unemployment…… ….50
Social Services…… ..420
Bus fare…………… …..25
Health Care………… ..120
Property tax……… ….190
Corporate tax………….200
Total…………… ……1765

Still, just looking at the benefits to the governments that provide the initial funding, how many times do the incomes of these 100,000 individuals multiply through economy? I have assumed 0.5 in the hiring process, yet we know that it is much higher, perhaps 4 times, perhaps 7? At 4 times, the benefit listed about jumps to $7,060,000,000.

What about the benefits to the justice system? People working aren’t scrapping or burglarizing. They aren’t being arrested, arraigned, sent through the court system, or jailed. They are not causing property damage, maiming or murdering others. Cutting crime in half by employing Detroit’s downtrodden would save the city conservatively $500 million annually, half of which would be saved by government.

How about property values? Employing these 100,000 would improve neighborhood appearance, would reverse blight, would reduce crime, and property values across the city would increase conservatively $20,000 per house or $7 billion dollars. The 25,000 acres of empty lots would increase in value conservatively by $5,000 each or $120 million dollars. Now some of these properties are owned by the city, and those dollars directly translate. But one thing is for sure, tax collection would go up dramatically on tax sales. In addition, the mill rate value of an additional $7 billion dollars of property value would increase annual government revenues by $440 million annually. Plus the stamp tax on sold houses would also benefit by increased home values. More homes would sell as well. Stamp tax collections would increase by $50 million. And with city services now able to be provided, the collection of an additional $150 million in unpaid property taxes would be easier to collect.

We have only touched on benefits to the governments for we haven’t even explored the benefits of wage increases over time for employees that are gaining skills, nor have we even begun to explore the improved performance from school graduates, their increased income potential and all of the tax benefits that will accrue the governments from students that graduate high school, not to mention college. We haven’t even begun to explore the dollars spent by the businesses that enter Detroit and their tax implications, or of the taxes generated by the the businesses themselves. And these are just the benefits to government, not even calculating the value to the individuals, their families, and the community.

But thus far, the initial investment of $900 million has returned the governments $8 billion and will easily surpass the 10X figure I initially posited. The pay back is obviously enormous. The value accrued is different to each government entity, but all benefit. This investment in Detroit’s people is a no brainer. It is simply a matter of determining how this paradigm shift can be accomplished through the cooperation of all levels of government.

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Detroit Must Commit and Go All In….

Rdetroit-casinoeversing the plight of Detroit rests with integrating the economic success of all of Detroit’s citizens into the future success of the city. The city can no longer afford to do otherwise.

Integrating all Detroit’s citizens implies providing living wages to the city’s underclass, and to providing jobs to future high school graduates. It also implies reforming Detroit’s schools to give students a realistic hope for a brighter future.

Detroit has 100,000 out of work citizens that require living wages. Yet, Detroit’s history has left many functionally illiterate, high school dropouts with few employable skills.

To date, Detroit has had very limited success in bringing in companies that could provide jobs to Detroit’s unemployed. Most of the jobs that have been provided thus far are minimum wage jobs that cannot sustain living standards above the poverty line.

The type of jobs that Detroit must lure to reduce the city’s structural unemployment are labor-intensive jobs that require low skills. These are the very ones that China lured to her special economic zones in the 1980s and 1990s. These jobs pay low, internationally competitive wages that are much lower that what would be considered a living wage in Detroit.

* Detroit’s Revival ** rests in being the first major city to create a way to bring plants and jobs back to Detroit from Asia and that can simultaneously create a way for these returning plants to pay employees a wage that is livable by Detroit standards and that is much higher than companies are used to paying.

For plants to return to Detroit, they must be reasonably assured that they will make comparable (actually higher for taking on Detroit’s political and socioeconomic risks) profits. Detroit must make the benefits so enticing that 1,000 plants are willing to repatriate to Detroit. And Detroit must be prepared to act quickly on the plan that it conceives, so as to establish Detroit as the place to come above all other cities that might try to copy Detroit.

Detroit must gain the support of the State of Michigan for the idea and Detroit’s government must be willing to commit 100% to the effort. The city must be fully prepared to integrate hundreds of plants into the city.

Detroit must go all in….

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Detroit Can Either Reinvent or Wither…I Vote For Reinventing!

blight buster
My analysis of Detroit’s problem is that the roots of racism that exists in all of America was uniquely exacerbated in this city. For the past 40 years, Detroit has been in a stubborn conflict of philosophies that unless is finally resolved will keep the city from a much needed recovery. In fact, this deadlock has now thrust the city into a crisis of immense proportions.

One side has attempted to create a conclave of gentrification to push through the malaise, to grow Detroit in spite of the frustrating residue of the city’s blue-collar era. The other side continues to try to find an economic solution to the city’s problems despite a school system that has failed miserably and community that commits crimes against itself at appalling rates.

My analysis suggests that no city government could have turned around Detroit’s depopulation without resolving the city’s institutional racism, which until now, has been a suppressed issue that acts out in violence. And my analysis also suggests that no attempt to gentrify Detroit out of its decay will have the growth rate to overcome the city’s budget issues. Even if the city’s small growth of last year were tripled to maximize the potential of the millennials, it would take a quarter century to grow out of the city’s financial crisis. The city’s infrastructure and pension costs are just too great for any realistic gentrification population growth to meet the city’s growing needs for revenue, even if we ignore for the moment the violent reaction and tax collection difficulties that would accrue to such an apartheid policy.

At some point, the city is going to have to find a way to reinvest in the city’s existing population as part of a holistic solution. Mr Gilbert has done a masterful job of buying up real estate and creating a vision of what Detroit could become. He just has no viable pathway to get there without bringing along the city’s population. Detroit has 620,000 African Americans spread throughout who are part of the equation. Their history is one of oppression, defiance, and internal struggle in the face of exodus.

Social safety net policies will not placate Detroit. Only a solution that builds a real economy that includes the current population will work. Yet few businesses remain in the United States that can provide a living wage to a population whose educational system has failed them so miserably. A radical departure from the status quo is what will be required to turn around Detroit.

My suggestion is that the gentrifiers who are putting their hopes in Kevin Orr to bust apart the city and start over should stop thinking that this path has any chance of success. Can Detroit gerrymander its geography and carve out the parts of the city that would take decades to recover under a build out scenario, returning blighted areas to the historical township structure of unincorporated American lands? That scenario is vastly unlikely politically or realistically, and no other city would annex blighted sections of Detroit. The emergency manager will not choose such a path. Detroit must face its demons.

Yet, with the right strategy, one that is inclusive of all its citizens, Detroit can actually recover quite quickly, and in so doing, Detroit can provide the rest of the country a blueprint to find the gold buried in all of our inner cities, our people. The strategy must overcome the catch 22 circular arguments I have listed above. No current political or economic policy exists to do so. It must be invented. As such, the paradigm shift that is necessary to create such a political invention will be called radical by some.

Radical or not, with no other viable alternative in sight, Detroit can either reinvent or wither. My vote is for re-invention.

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Is Saving Detroit Worth The Effort? (Yes)

detroit kids

Thus far, I have outlined Detroit school principles and Detroit work responsibility principles, two sets of principles amongst others that will be important to outline as the basis for a holistic solution. Yet already the solution set to accomplish just these two sets of principles might seem extremely difficult to some. To accomplish the two sets of principles that I have outlined thus far, for example, would take a great deal of cooperation between local, state, and potentially federal governments on both sides of the aisle and would force a paradigm shift that would be difficult to accomplish even with both major political parties working in concert. For this reason, many would simply scoff at my principles as unrealistic.

Yet, no other set of principles set forth thus far have been implemented in the past 60 years of Detroit’s decline that have resulted in the city’s turn around. And no principles being presented contemporaneous solve Detroit’s immediate growth problems either. Without a bold set of principles that sets the bar as high as the stars, Detroit cannot expect to even hit the moon. And right now, Detroit’s revival depends on hitting the moon.

I am suggesting that Detroit reach for a difficult task (that is reachable) to avoid a terrible alternative of bankruptcy and further decline. The alternatives thus far presented to Detroit by others show a strong and good future yet without a viable path forward. The thriving path forward requires that the city grow robustly, but the initiatives thus far presented project a slow growth.

Could Detroit achieve slow growth from Downtown and key city centers without a bold jobs initiative? Perhaps, yes, perhaps no….the answer depends on how deeply city services must be cut to balance the city’s budget and how much more crime and blight will be exacerbated by such cuts. The answer also depends on how many city assets will be sold off to forestall bankruptcy or whether bankruptcy will cause the city to lose its ability to borrow for the future.

A seemingly more complex but actually more viable solution is one that aggressively pursues a much higher rate of city growth. If a viable solution can project a realistically higher growth trajectory, it will also project a balanced budget at higher city revenue levels that can put Detroit in a position to borrow, not to pay for further operating deficits, but to create assets for the City’s future prosperity.

Since Coleman Young’s terms in office until now, Detroit has attempted to lure businesses to the city to provide jobs to keep Detroiters from leaving. The city has had some successes but not nearly enough to save Detroit from having to endure the emergency manager’s executions.

A net 1.1 million people have left Detroit since 1950, to find work and to escape Detroit’s growing crime. Now that the rate of exodus has slowed in Detroit, city leaders might be able to bring residents back if they can first bring businesses back. Yet to do so, they must convince business owners to relocate their businesses in Detroit instead of other alternatives. Detroit’s blight and crime rate make the effort formidable.

Even more formidable, the city’s leaders find themselves in two catch 22 dilemmas. First, without reversing its crime rate, Detroit will not bring in new businesses quickly enough to overcome mounting deficits. If the city cannot grow quickly enough, it will resort to selling off assets to pay debts and the sale of those assets could cripple the city. Yet, without bringing in enough businesses to provide good paying jobs, Detroit cannot reverse its crime rate. This is the circular argument that has haunted the city’s mayors for the past four decades, the catch 22.

The second circular argument is even more insidious than the first in that to lower crime, jobs must provide living wages. Yet, the type of jobs that most unemployed Detroiters qualify for pay the lowest wages. Half of working Detroiters aged 25 and under have jobs that pay minimum wage. Minimum wage is already too low to keep a worker out of poverty. Bringing in more jobs that pay minimum wage to hire unemployed Detroiters does not take them out of poverty. Without reducing Detroit’s poverty, crime will not significantly decrease. And if crime is not lowered, even those minimum wage jobs will not come to the city, hence catch 22 squared.

Since jobs could not be lured into the city to decrease crime, city leaders resorted to entertainment businesses like casinos and sports arenas, and gentrification, creating mini-walled off cities within the city, to increase the tax base, yet the pace of growth from these pursuits did not compensate for the losses due to depopulation, and now Detroit faces the impending possibility of bankruptcy.

The principles I have outlined for schools and business development will lower crime but both depend on breaking the circular arguments. If they can be broken, jobs can be brought in that provide current residents with livable wages, and Detroit can significantly lower its crime rate.

With lowered crime, the vision that Detroit is now presenting to the business community of a better Detroit will be viable. Detroit’s vision of the future city, combined with significant incentives for businesses to invest in the city, can then help the city bring in more jobs. More jobs will increase property values, which will in turn create higher city revenues that will lead to reinvestment in the city’s livability and a path toward a thriving Detroit.

To break the circular argument, however, two things must simultaneously occur. First, businesses must be convinced to hire 100,000 employees from the ranks of Detroit’s largely illiterate unemployed. Second, businesses must be convinced to pay new hirees a living wage that is above minimum wage, when half of Detroit workers under the age of 25 are being paid minimum wage. This is the herculean task that has perplexed a good many people without a solution. Therefore, Detroit faces bankruptcy.

Yet, the fact that no viable solution has been proposed in 40 years does not mean there isn’t one. The solution requires a paradigm shift. It requires the collaboration of both sides of the political aisle, and of local, state, and possible federal government leaders. Is saving Detroit worth all that effort?

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Filed under American Governance, American Politics, American Schools, City Planning, Full Employment, Job Auction Plan, Job Voucher Plan, Jobs, Racism, social trajectory

If Detroit Will Follow these Principles, Detroit Crime will Drop

crimeDetroit’s future hinges on reducing its high crime rate to allow newcomers to venture back into the city. The city has restructured its police department, putting more police on the streets, and has adopted state-of-the-art multifaceted programs that other cities like Chicago are implementing to mitigate youth violence, yet crime persists. Modifications to the status quo will not affect crime quickly enough to curb what has become a violent roadblock to Detroit’s future. What is required is a radical departure from past practice. Detroit needs a major step improvement toward a safer community if it is to recover.

The city is collapsing in debt and depopulation. Yet, a radical departure from the status quo seems almost too dystopic a medicine to take, even for a city that faces bankruptcy. Detroit is just as polarized as the country over how to reduce crime, and Detroit’s community reaction to past police performance has been a divisive obstacle to major change. So without a clear path forward, radical change seems daunting. However, a comparison of the extreme right and left views of America’s think tanks regarding crime suggests that while their viewpoints may differ, the similarities of their stances indicate that a clear path forward might be possible.

While their solutions may be different, they both speak of the same root causes of crime. They couch them differently for each side’s solutions must fit the entirety of their differing political views. Therefore, each side focuses on different symptoms of the root cause, and their solutions focus on resolving those different symptoms. A holistic solution, however, must encompass the root of each extreme’s problems and solutions.

What do conservatives suggest is the root cause of crime? The Heritage Foundation suggests that crime is the outcome of failing families. They cite numerous studies that show that crime is committed most by those raised without fathers. Yet, the Heritage Foundation seems to negate the nexus between crime and poverty.

The Cato Institute supports the Heritage Foundation’s conclusion regarding single parent families stating that, “the relationship is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race, low income, and crime.” Yet the Institute also states that both violent crime and property crime are highly related to economic conditions.

The National Academy of Sciences agrees with their positions regarding single-family households and further suggests that jail policies, which create a lack of young, marriage age males in a third of Black families, excessively exacerbates the problem of fatherless homes.

The progressive think tank Economic Policy Institute does not disagree that dysfunctional families lead to crime. In fact, EPI suggests that dysfunctional families lead to poor school performance, high dropout rates, and then to crime. Yet EPI suggests that poverty is the root cause of disruptive families.

The liberal think tank Economic Policy Research reasons that dropouts do not qualify for 90% of jobs, leading to high unemployment, and argues that unemployment is directly correlated to burglary, rape, robbery and assault.

The progressive think tank Center for American Progress supports EPI’s claim that poverty is a root cause. They point to President Clinton’s policies as having been the solution that drove a drop in crime rate more than any other time in U.S. history. They state that lack of work, lack of police on the streets, high poverty rates, a shrinking middle class, underperforming schools, and lack of affordable housing was a combined reason for higher crime rates that Clinton’s policies corrected.

The above examples suggest that conservatives focus on the destruction of the family as the root cause of crime, without then connecting the impact of extreme poverty and lack of hope for any change of circumstances to the destruction of the family. The examples also suggest that liberals point to social disruption caused by poverty as the root cause of crime without acknowledging the breakdown of family as a key component in that social disruption. But both political parties are just emphasizing aspects of the root cause and solutions that align with their party’s platform. Detroit, however, must cut through the political clutter and create a bold solution that will reverse the city’s plight now.

To create a clear path forward, Detroit’s factions must agree on principles of crime reduction. In the spirit of survival, acknowledging that each sides understanding of the issues may not be mutually exclusive, is in order. By doing so, the left and right might agree to the bold solution that meets each other’s political needs while restoring the City of Detroit. Disregarding for the while how to achieve them, the following principles are critical to Detroit’s crime transformation and should be supported by Detroit’s bold solution:

.1. Families remaining intact
.2. Detroit’s single-parent families gaining community support
.3. Detroit’s youth having safe and successful learning opportunities from pre-school through high school
.4. All teens graduating from Detroit’s high school, functionally literate
.5. Teens delaying marriage, cohabitation, and child rearing until financially secure
.6. Kids having financial and social alternatives to crime during school years
.7. High school graduates having a reasonable expectation of a living wage job if they choose to work after
high school graduation
.8. High school graduates from all socioeconomic backgrounds that academically qualify, having access to
college
.9. In the decade that Detroit is transitioning to a culture of less crime, the existing subculture of
crime that has grown in a vacuum of viable alternatives, must be curbed through both preventative and
policing means.

Once clear principle are in place, a bold solution set that will meet them fast enough to sustain Detroit will be the commitment that is required by all that would have Detroit recover.

These principles outlined above must now be added to those of Detroit’s other stakeholders to achieve a holistic solution that meets the needs of all stakeholders, not the least of which are the 700,000 citizens who are struggling each day to raise their families in a hostile, crime filled environment in which 60% are either victims or witnesses to crime.

After years of decline, Detroit’s murder rate has risen for several years, peaking at 411 in 2012. Detroit is named the most dangerous city in America. If following the principles outlined above will curb Detroit’s high crime rate but Detroit is the most dangerous city in America, then a gap should exist between the stated principles and how well Detroit fares against them.

How well does Detroit compare to principles for low crime?

Principle 1. Keep Families intact

From 9% in 1960, 80% of families in Detroit are single parent today

Principle 2. Give community support to Detroit’s single-parent families

Detroit communities have been damaged by blight and depopulation. Detroit is focusing on bringing communities back together and Corporate sponsors such as Ford have prioritized investment in community development. Organizations from Jewish Federation to Goodwill organize to support single parents. Yet, 40% of single parent families in Detroit are living in poverty.

Principle 3. Ensure all students pass each grade proficiency and are safe from pre-school through high school

Mt. Elliot neighborhood is listed in top 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in America. Chances of being victim of a violent crime in any one year is 1 in 9. Organizations like Take Action are actively working to reduce violence against Detroit Youth. Yet only 4% of Detroit eighth graders can pass minimal standards in math and only 22% of Detroit kids graduate from High School. 79% of Detroiters do not want their kids to attend Detroit Public Schools. Detroit has formed an organization, Excellent Schools Detroit, committed to bringing Detroit’s graduation rate to 90% by 2020.

Principle 4. All teens graduate from Detroit’s high school functionally literate

.47% of Detroit Adults are functionally illiterate.

Principle 5. Ensure Teens delay marriage, cohabitation, and child rearing until financially secure

Since 1990, Detroit’s teen pregnancy rate has been cut in half to 103 per 1,000, yet is still 300% higher than the national average of 31. Detroit ranks #1 of American cities in the rate of unmarried births.

Principle 6. Kids having financial and social alternatives to crime during school years

In 2012, Detroit youth unemployment was 42%.

Principle 7. High school graduates having a reasonable expectation of a living wage job if they choose to work after high school graduation

.50% of Detroit’s workers age 25 and under that have jobs make minimum wage.

Principle 8. High school graduates from all socioeconomic backgrounds that academically qualify, having access to college

In 2012, only 2% of Detroit’s graduating seniors were deemed capable of performing college level work.

Principle 9. In the decade that Detroit is transitioning to a culture of less crime, the existing subculture of crime that has grown in a vacuum of viable alternatives, must be curbed through both preventative and policing means.

In 2012, the Police union spokesperson stated that Detroit is the most dangerous city in America and to enter at your own risk. He said that police officers are understaffed, overworked, demoralized, and sometimes fear for their lives. The department has reorganized to emphasize gang management.

Mitt Romney, son of Michigan Governor George Romney and recent presidential candidate stated, “for those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2 percent. But, if those things are absent, 76 percent will be poor.” Detroit’s kids must have the opportunity to acquire the three ingredients that Romney says will put them in the 98% probability of making it out of poverty.

With such recent Detroit statistics, Detroiters should agree that drastic actions are required. What is needed is a bold, new plan.

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