By Tom Quiner
It was a perfect summer evening.
A few family members, the “conservative wing of the family,” sat on my patio sipping wine.
The subject of Detroit came up.
A couple of us wanted to pin the blame for the demise of the city on liberalism. But one in our group considered our diagnosis “simplistic.” He said most of the problem should be laid at the feet of the unions in the auto industry, and on the ultimate decline of the auto industry.
My take: they are all of a piece, and they are all connected to liberalism.
The unions made tremendous demands on the big three auto makers. They couldn’t have been successful in exacting such lavish benefits if the Democratically-controlled Congress didn’t have their back.
My late father-in-law spent his entire career working for Ford Motor Company in middle management. He regaled us with horror stories of union demands and inevitable management acquiescence to them.
The unions could get away with it. That was in the days before Japan auto makers began to flex their muscles and make better cars that cost less, thanks to lower labor costs.
Detroit auto makers couldn’t keep up since they had to divert so much capital into labor at the expense of innovation and quality. As the Big Three declined, so did Detroit.
So, yes, Big Labor played a big part in the demise of Detroit. But it was just one piece.
One party, Democrats, have controlled the city since 1962. Their first black mayor, Coleman Young who was elected in 1972, began to drive white workers out of city jobs, replacing them with black workers. He was hostile to the white suburbs and was considered to be anti-white.
Whites began to leave. They were unsettled by increasing polarization of the races and increasing crime rates, crime that the police couldn’t keep up with.
And whites couldn’t handle the increasingly unfriendly tax rates. Liberals like to spend other people’s money and pour it into making government bigger.
They succeeded in Detroit, a city that has the highest per-capita tax burden in Michigan among cities. Even more, Detroit has the country’s highest property taxes on houses; they have the highest commercial property tax; the have the second-highest industrial property tax.
In vintage liberal fashion, the city provided lavish salaries and lavish benefits to unionized city workers. For example, the city (taxpayers) pay 80% to 100% of city worker retirees’ health insurance, but 99.6% of it was unfunded.
In other words, as their tax base fled, Detroit didn’t cut spending, they increased taxes and kept right on spending lavishly.
If that isn’t liberalism, what is?