Friday, December 07, 2007

Inside the Glove: Here in my beloved home state, things are still screwed up and I am not just talking about the weather. Detroit was recently named the most dangerous city in America, with it weak sister to the north, Flint, coming in at number 3. As I have discussed before, whenever something like this surfaces, Detroiters, including the media, fly into a fits of indignation and denial. To wit:

"It really makes you wonder if the organization is truly concerned with evaluating crime or increasing their profit," said [Police Chief Ella] Bully-Cummings, who noted the complete report is available only by purchase. "With crime experts across the country routinely denouncing the findings, I believe the answer is clear."
That has to be one of the stupidest responses in history. Does she suppose that naming Detroit the most dangerous city was going to make them more money than naming, say, Baltimore or Pittsburgh the most dangerous? This is mentality of the chief of police of the city.

And we have:

"What I take exception to is the use of these statistics and the damage they inflict on a number of these cities," said Mayor Robert Duffy, chairman of the Criminal and Social Justice Committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
In other words, it may be true, but how dare they say it. Really, the mindset of the responders tells you pretty much all you need to know about why cities like Detroit and Flint are in the toilet. They believe it's all a matter of perception. It's nothing that a big marketing campaign or the proper spin in the press or just not saying anything about it can't fix. No doubt that they would just use the phase all defenders of Detroit have used for decades now: "It's not that bad." Sorry, it is.

While we are on the topic of quotes about Detroit, here's Jack Kerouac from On The Road describing a Detroit during a visit in the late '40s.

"If you sifted all Detroit in a wire basket the beater solid core of dregs couldn't be better gathered."
Some things never change.

And get this, over in the Wall Street Journal, Jake Halpern writes about Buffalo, NY, making some of the same arguments I have in the past about Detroit, specifically: the devotion to finding high-profile projects that generate good press is a detrimental distraction because the only thing that will really change things is when the environment for all businesses is attractive, not just the fancy ones who you've bribed with tax breaks and hold press conferences for. Anyway, it is obvious from reading this that Buffalo is in bad shape, but then there is this throwaway line:

"[Buffalo] is the second-poorest major urban area in the nation, just behind Detroit."
Yes, Detroit is even pitiable by the standards of Buffalo.

Statewide things are not much better. We still can't attract businesses here, but every once in a while the Governor bribes a high profile company to relocate here with egregious tax breaks, which she can do without disrupting the government revenue since she recently slapped a service tax (essentially a sales tax on services in addition to goods purchases) on the citizens. But at least she gets some good press and that's what counts.

Economically, Michigan is pretty much doomed. We are at the start of the "taxes chase business away/economic activity drops/government revenues fall/government raises taxes to make it up/more businesses leave" spiral; same one the killed Detroit. There will be a crisis -- it may take two or three more tax increases -- but it will happen. Only then will things start to change for the better.

Although to give credit where due, some Detroit suburbs actually made the top 30 for safest: Troy and Sterling Heights, for to name a couple. For those of you not interested in being employed here, that actually works out pretty well. Outside major metro areas, Michigan is one of the most beautiful places you can imagine. It can be full-on backwoods outdoorsy, there's as much shoreline as either coast, it's quite inexpensive, very safe and rarely crowded (and getting less crowded every day). I have pointed out how it's a perfect alternative to a family Disney trek.

In fact, speaking for the tiny minority of us who have a secure Michigan-based income, it's kind of nice not having to worry about sprawl or squalor affecting our upstate paradise. So do come visit, we need your money. But mind the deer.