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…
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.