As the bottom dropped out of the economy in 2007 and 2008 the government was flailing about trying to figure out what to do. Treasury officials then decided that something had to be done to save the large investment banks after Bear Stearns was left to die on the side of the road. Next up were the major banks and then the giant insurer AIG.
Somewhere down the road Chrysler and GM came to Washington hat-in-hand begging for money to make up for their years of mismanagement.Washington was only too happy to hand it out.
These were the same auto companies that had abandoned Detroit for the suburbs and over the borders.The Motor City which boasted a population of nearly 2 million folks 40 years ago was down to around 750,000 by the time the government bailed out the auto industry.
Detroit saw its industrial base leave the city - and with it thousands of good paying jobs in the plants. The tax base shrank. The money available to maintain the city's infrastructure was no longer there. Over the course of four decades the city entered a death spiral.
Today Detroit is a sea of poverty. Sure, there are groups talking about revitalizing the city - but that revitalization is designed to draw young white professionals into the city and pander to their tastes. The revitalization has nothing to do with those our economic system has chosen to ignore. The city is writing a check to build a new hockey arena when it can't even afford to maintain its own police department or to pick up trash throughout the city.
Earlier this month Detroit became the largest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy protection. The goal of the emergency manager is to wipe out the city's obligations to its pensioners. If the bankruptcy master invalidates the city's pension obligations, thousands upon thousands of former city workers will see their pensions and health care cut to the bone. And they did nothing to contribute to the financial meltdown of the city.
So, while local and state governments were more than willing to hand out subsidies to the auto makers whenever the titans of industry asked for some dough, there is no one willing to provide financial assistance to Detroit.
While the federal government was only too happy to bail out Chrysler and GM no one is proposing any type of financial assistance to Detroit. The auto makers are enjoying near record profits and the big banks are pulling in money hand-over-fist but no one in Washington seems to give a damn about the poor and working poor in Detroit.
President Obama continues to ignore the poor while he trumpets what the so-called middle class needs. His recent proclamation that the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10 an hour is only about five years too late. And even then it isn't adequate to keep a family of four above the poverty line.
We can somehow finds billions of dollars to spend on killing people and blowing stuff up in Afghanistan and across the Middle East. We can find plenty of money for the NSA to conduct covert surveillance on the citizens of this country without the slimmest iota of reasonable suspicion that anyone has done anything wrong. We can find plenty of pocket change to provide subsidies for businesses, both large and small, throughout the economy. But we can't provide one dime to the folks in Detroit who have watched their city die a slow, painful death.
What a strange set of priorities we have these days.