Saturday, November 21, 2009

Detroit's Death Spiral Continues

Corruption, raging unemployment, the auto industry collapse, and a real estate market that is in even worse shape, and yet there are still worse things going on in Detroit these days.

Detroit can't even find the money to bury those people unclaimed by family or relatives in its mortuary. The bodies are stacking up.
After years of gross mismanagement by the city’s leaders and the big three car manufacturers of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, who continued to make vehicles that Americans no longer wanted to buy, Detroit today has an unemployment rate of 28 per cent, higher even than the worst years of the Great Depression.

The murder rate is soaring. The school system is in receivership. The city treasury is $300 million (£182m) short of the funds needed to provide the most basic services such as rubbish collection. In its postwar heyday, when Detroit helped the US to dominate the world’s car market, it had 1.85 million people. Today, just over 900,000 remain. It was once America’s fourth-largest city. Today, it ranks eleventh, and will continue to fall.

Thousands of houses are abandoned, roofs ripped off, windows smashed. Block after block of shopping districts lie boarded up. Former manufacturing plants, such as the giant Fisher body plant that made Buicks and Cadillacs, but which was abandoned in 1991, are rotting.

Even Detroit’s NFL football team, the Lions, are one of the worst in the country. Last season they lost all 16 games. This year they have lost eight, and won just a single gane.

Michigan’s Central Station, designed by the same people who gave New York its Grand Central Station, was abandoned 20 years ago. One photographer who produced a series of images for Time magazine said that he often felt, as he moved around parts of Detroit, as though he was in a post-apocalyptic disaster.

Then in June, the $21,000 annual county budget to bury Detroit’s unclaimed bodies ran out.
Detroit is in a death spiral and the local politicians don't know what to do. Michigan has the highest unemployment rates in the nation, and Detroit's unemployment rate is at Great Depression levels. Foreclosures and a lack of services are shrinking the remaining tax base even further.

High taxes, unemployment, and a shrinking tax base are feeding on each other to result in Detroit's demise. The spin on a slight decline in Detroit's unemployment rate isn't necessarily the result of job creation, but that people are losing their unemployment benefits and falling out of the statistic.

The economic situation in Detroit is so bad, that the Pontiac Silverdome, which cost $55 million to build and includes 150 acres of land for the stadium and parking, was recently sold for $583,000.

That's not that much more than what many houses sell for in Bergen County, New Jersey on a fraction of an acre. The depreciation of assets throughout Detroit and its surrounding communities is going to continue as job opportunities dry up and people seek better economic opportunities elsewhere.

No comments: