Tag: Detroit

It’s Almost as If … Gun Freedom Works

We all know that guns are an evil talisman that makes people do bad things. Why crime-ridden cities would be completely safe if they just got rid of those darn guns. Take Chicago, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. If only the guns laws were stricter, Chicago would see a drop in crime as big as say … uh … wait … Detroit?

Fed up with crime, some armed Detroiters have developed itchy trigger-fingers — and Police Chief James Craig said lawbreakers are getting the message.

Detroit has experienced 37 percent fewer robberies in 2014 than during the same period last year, 22 percent fewer break-ins of businesses and homes, and 30 percent fewer carjackings. Craig attributed the drop to better police work and criminals being reluctant to prey on citizens who may be carrying guns.

“Criminals are getting the message that good Detroiters are armed and will use that weapon,” said Craig, who has repeatedly said he believes armed citizens deter crime. “I don’t want to take away from the good work our investigators are doing, but I think part of the drop in crime, and robberies in particular, is because criminals are thinking twice that citizens could be armed.

“I can’t say what specific percentage is caused by this, but there’s no question in my mind it has had an effect,” Craig said.

Craig has been making statements like this for a while and drawing erratic fire from the gun-grabber lobby, which has decided, in the face of numerous studies showing that gun ownership reduces crime, that damn the facts, guns cause violence.

“Our position is, more guns equals more crime,” [Coalition to Stop Gun Violence director] Horowitz said “These are complicated issues, but the empirical evidence shows the states with the lowest gun ownership and the tightest restrictions have the fewest instances of gun violence.

This is, strictly speaking, not true. If you look at the correlation between gun ownership and total violence, you’ll find it’s weak. There are huge outliers — much of the Midwest has high gun ownership and low levels of violence. And some of the most violent cities in America have tight gun control laws and low levels of gun ownership (Washington DC, Chicago). The worst you can say is that the literature is mixed on whether gun ownership prevents violence. The more accurate statement is that a significant amount of research shows that gun ownership does, in fact, prevent criminal violence. Just ask the people trying to restore some semblance of order to Detroit.

On Twitter, I’ve been referring to gun control as The Left’s Global Warming. This was in response to an article by Paul Krugman in which he said this:

Yes, liberals are sometimes subject to bouts of wishful thinking. But can anyone point to a liberal equivalent of conservative denial of climate change, or the “unskewing” mania late in the 2012 campaign, or the frantic efforts to deny that Obamacare is in fact covering a lot of previously uninsured Americans?

I listed a bunch of things liberals are in denial about but gun control is becoming more and more the issue where the dementia is most pronounced. I have written a series of articles on my own blog (here, here, here, here, here and here) illustrating the lengths the gun grabbers will go to make their point. It includes every trick in the denial book. They cherry-pick, they misquote, they obfuscate, they dismiss massive studies that dispute their points in favor of small ones that support them, they accuse researchers like John Lott of fraud while ignoring the proven documented fraud on their own side. They say things like “Australia banned guns and saw a sharp reduction in violence” while ignoring that the United States liberalized its gun laws and saw a sharper decline in violence. They excuse Chicago’s explosion of violence despite strict gun laws by saying guns are being brought in from other cities … as if the cities that have not seen an explosion of violence are situated on Mars with no neighboring cities of their own.

The fall in Detroit’s crime is not entirely due to civilian gun ownership. But if we believed the hysteria of the gun grabbers, all those guns in the hands of civilians should we making things worse, not better. It’s good to see one policeman who actually gets it and isn’t afraid to let people know.

As Long As The House Is On Fire …

So Detroit is in bankruptcy, hemorrhaging jobs and businesses. A sensible mayor would say, “Hmm, what can we do to bring businesses back to Detroit?”

Detroit does not have a sensible mayor:

Amidst a bankruptcy and a fast-dwindling population and tax base, the city has prioritized the task of ensuring that all businesses are in compliance with its codes and permitting. To accomplish this, Mayor David Bing announced in January that he’d assembled a task force to execute Operation Compliance.

Operation Compliance began with the stated goal of shutting down 20 businesses a week. Since its inception, Operation Compliance has resulted in the closure of 383 small businesses, with another 536 in the “process of compliance,” according to figures provided to Reason TV by city officials.

But business owners say that Operation Compliance unfairly targets small, struggling businesses in poor areas of town and that the city’s maze of regulations is nearly impossible to navigate, with permit fees that are excessive and damaging to businesses running on thin profit margins.

Emphasis mine.

Does it surprise anyone that Operation Compliance is targeting those without the resources to fight? Does it surprise anyone that they are crushing the competition to larger more powerful businesses? The thing is that the city often does have the law on their side: Detroit’s regulations are such a nightmare that many business owners just say “screw it” and open up rogue businesses. The result is a model to “prosperity” that goes like so:

1) Write excessive and labyrinthine regulation.
2) Wait for businesses to open.
3) Hire a bunch of public employees to shut down businesses for violating those regs.
4) Profit!

This is insane. This is something that could only be thought of by a city government that sees prosperity entirely in terms of the size of power of government. They look at bigger more prosperous cities with large public sectors and think that the large public sector created the big city, not vice versa. They have the stated goal of closing hundreds of businesses a year. They are anti-matter to Hong Kong, one of the most prosperous cities on Earth, where a business could once be opened with a single form (I don’t know if this is still true since China took over).

Detroit is doomed. I see little indication that they even understand what the problem is, let alone are taking steps to solve it.

The Collapse of Detroit

This went out a week ago, but you really should read this article from the Detroit Free Press about the implosion of the city. Complete with animated graphs, it documents how, especially in the last decade, Detroit was the author of its own decline. Contra Krugman, this didn’t “just happen”. It was made. And the people who made it were Democrats.

A few choice quotes.

The total assessed value of Detroit property — a good gauge of the city’s tax base and its ability to pay bills — fell a staggering 77% over the past 50 years in today’s dollars. But through 2004, the city cut only 28% of its workers, even though the money to pay them was drying up. Not until the last decade did Detroit, in desperation, cut half its workforce. The city also failed to take advantage of efficiencies, such as new technology, that enabled enormous productivity gains in the broader economy.

Pension officials handed out about $1 billion in bonuses from the city’s two pension funds to retirees and active city workers from 1985 to 2008. That money — mostly in the form of so-called 13th checks — could have shored up the funds and possibly prevented the city from filing for bankruptcy. If that money had been saved, it would have been worth more than $1.9 billion today to the city and pension funds, by one expert’s estimate.

Contrary to myth, the city has not been in free fall since the 1960s. There have been periods of economic growth and hope, such as in the 1990s when the population decline slowed, income-tax revenue increased and city leaders balanced the budget. But leaders failed to take advantage of those moments of calm to reform city government, reduce expenses and protect the city and its residents from another downturn.

One event that that precipitated the current crisis was a complex debt deal that Kilpatrick engineered. Praised at the time, the deal ended up putting Detroit nearly three billion in the hole. I’ve commented before about cities and municipalities engaging in these complex financial deals that end up bankrupting them, particularly here in Pennsylvania. As I mentioned before, the city also negotiated lucrative deals to lure businesses to Detroit, which both drove non-rent-seeking businesses away and cost them. Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant, funded by taxpayers, ate up $250 million all by itself.

This didn’t have to be. Pittsburgh survived the collapse of the steel industry by reinventing the city. It’s now one of the vibrant cities in America. But Detroit failed to see the problem coming, made decisions that made a bad problem worse and has now completely imploded.

Ah, I’m sure there’s nothing to learn there. Things like Detroit “just happen”. Why here’s the Krug himself, comparing Pittsburgh and Detroit and deciding that Pittsburgh taking “better care of its core” was the difference. Detroit was just a victim of people fleeing the city, which has absolutely nothing to do with crony capitalism, out of control spending and skyrocketing taxes. No sir. It had nothing to do with Pittsburgh having one public employee per 94 residents compared to Detroit’s one per 60 (and even that is misleading, since Detroit pays out more to retirees than to current employees). No, sir. It all has to do with protecting your core, whatever that means.

(In his full article, Krug hilariously states that Detroit is a result of the creative destruction of capitalism. But cities are generally large enough that the creative destruction balances out — new businesses thrive as the old ones fail. When “creative destruction” is that widespread, it’s usually a different kind of destruction.)

Yeah, I know the Free Press has done their research, poring over 10,000 first-hand documents to reach their conclusions. But the Left thought really hard about this one night and came to different conclusions. So who you gonna believe? The excuse-makers? Or the facts?

You Can’t Peddle Prosperity

Ilya Somin makes a great point on the Detroit bankruptcy:

Detroit’s sixty year decline, culminating in its recent bankruptcy, has many causes. But one that should not be ignored is the city’s extensive use of eminent domain to transfer property to politically influential private interests. For many years, Detroit aggressively used eminent domain to promote “economic development” and “urban renewal.” The most notorious example was the 1981 Poletown case, in which some 4000 people lost their homes, and numerous businesses were forced to move in order to make way for a General Motors factory. As I explained in this article, the Poletown takings – like many other similar condemnations – ended up destroying far more development than they ever created. In his prescient dissent in Poletown, Michigan Supreme Court Justice James Ryan warned that there was no real reason to expect that the project would produce the growth promised by GM and noted that Detroit and the court had “subordinated a constitutional right to private corporate interests.”

Eminent domain abuse certainly wasn’t the only cause of Detroit’s troubles. But the city’s record is a strong argument against oft-heard claims that the use of eminent domain to transfer property to private economic interests is the key to revitalizing economically troubled cities. In addition to the immediate destruction and dislocation caused by such takings, they also tend to deter investment by undermining confidence in the security of property rights. One of the main findings of recent scholarship in development economics is that secure property rights are an important factor in promoting long-term economic growth. As economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson put it in their much-praised recent book Why Nations Fail, “secure private property rights are central [to development], since only those with such rights will be willing to invest and increase productivity” (pg. 75). Detroit is an abject example of what happens when policymakers ignore this reality.

Always remember: the lot that the Supreme Court let New London boot Suzette Kelo out of ended up vacant. And the specialized tax breaks New London gave Pfizer left Pfizer packing the second they expired. These “big deals” to bring in businesses never work because if locating a business there was such a hot idea, the businesses wouldn’t need eminent domain, special tax breaks and subsidies.

But pay close attention to Somin’s second paragraph about how eminent domain and other attempts to “promote” businesses undermine the very basis of the economic system. In that respect, this is just another form of crony capitalism. Connor Friersorf today discussed this in a different context. He references an NYT article about how Goldman moves around giant piles of aluminum to take advantage of government regulations on the price. It nets Goldman billions while harming the economy by making aluminum artificially more expensive. There are innumerable ways in which this is happening — private industries using government loopholes and regulations to become rich without actually doing anything.

Preventing this sort of thing ought to be a high priority for anyone who wants to see free-market capitalism succeed in America. So long as our economic system resembles what Adam Smith described — the profit motive benefiting everyone, as if by an invisible hand — much of the American public can be counted on to support politicians who campaign as unapologetic capitalists, even if people are rewarded unequally, based on the value their labor is producing.

But if “capitalism” starts to be associated in the public mind with Wall Street profiting by deliberately slowing down industrial productivity (or with Mitt Romney making millions by buying companies and gaming the tax implications of shuttering them), Americans are not going to support capitalism. They’re going to regard it as a rigged system that only profits wealthy insiders.

In the short term, Republicans and Democrats alike benefit by allying themselves with the wealthy insiders. Like the GOP, President Obama has benefited from Wall Street money. But in the longer term, enough stories like this New York Times scoop will destroy Republicans, because rhetorically, they’re the ones insisting that the market is beneficial and more or less fair, even as a transparently corrupt financial sector consumes a larger percentage of the overall economy.

Crony capitalism is the antithesis of free-market capitalism. It is similar to what Adam Smith was writing against.

But, as Detroit shows, it doesn’t even have an economic benefit. Detroit, like New London, ended up with nothing for all their seizures, subsidies and graft. Is that the model we want for America? Because it’s certainly the model we’re pushing.

Post Scriptum: Now if you want to see someone get it totally wrong on Detroit, enjoy.

It’s All The GOP’s Fault: Part 623

In the comments to the Detroit bankruptcy, we half-joked that it would be blamed on Bush.

Guess what?

ED SCHULTZ: Michigan used to be a symbol of industrial strength in manufacturing in this country. But thanks to a lot of Republican policies, the city is now filing for bankruptcy. Now, it’s the largest public sector bankruptcy in U.S. history, and the consequences could be devastating if you care about people. The already small force of police, firefighters and EMTs are in danger of future layoffs, that’s only going to make it worse. Roughly 30,000 retired workers are concerned about their pensions. You know, what they’re counting on.

Make no mistake, Detroit is exactly what the Republicans want. They outsourced manufacturing jobs, attack unions, cut public services, and this is the result. Now they can wipe the slate clean because now they can start privatizing city assets.

Detroit attacked unions and cut public services? Um, Ed? That’s the precise opposite of true. They haven’t cut public services and have one of the highest ratios of public employees to population in the nation. They didn’t attack unions and currently owe billion in unfunded liabilities. They tried to tax their way out of it and drove businesses away.

Detroit is a distillation of everything wrong with Democratic party priorities. Rather than defend that, they are going on the offensive. Schultz is not the only one spewing this line of garbage. But the facts will not let them get away with it.

Saving Detroit

What the hell?

Ruling the governor and Detroit’s emergency manager violated the state constitution, an Ingham County Circuit judge ordered Friday that Detroit’s federal bankruptcy filing be withdrawn.

“It’s absolutely needed,” said Judge Rosemary Aquilina, observing she hopes Gov. Rick Snyder “reads certain sections of the (Michigan) constitution and reconsiders his actions.”

The judge said state law guards against retirement benefits being “diminished,” but there will be no such protection in federal bankruptcy court.

I’m going to wait until we get some posting about where judge Aquilina is on the law. It seems to me that she’s saying since retirement benefits are guaranteed under state law, the city can not file for bankruptcy and potentially reduce those benefits. She might be right on the law, I don’t know. But as Veronique de Rugy points out, Detroit may have no choice. They have over $9 billion in unfunded pension requirements and over 60% of the workers in the system are retirees, not active workers.

There’s also this:

The filing involved a bit of courtroom drama.

With rumors it was imminent Thursday afternoon, attorneys representing the pension boards hurried into Aquilina’s court in Lansing to ask for a temporary restraining order.

But Snyder and Orr beat them by a few minutes. Aquilina, informed by phone, allowed the pension board lawyers to revise their restraining order request, then granted it.

Prior to her ruling on Friday, the judge criticized the Snyder administration and Schuette’s office over their hasty move.

“It’s cheating, sir, and it’s cheating good people who work,” the judge told assistant state Attorney General Brian Devlin. “It’s also not honoring the (United States) president, who took (Detroit’s auto companies) out of bankruptcy.”

Actually, your honor, he took them into bankruptcy so that they could their debts under control. The Detroit Free Press claims she’s sending copies of her order to Obama (Update: Adam Steinbaugh claims this is the note). What the fuck Barack Obama has to do with Detroit’s bankruptcy, I have no idea.

I will again wait until I see what someone with a legal background posts about the ruling. My initial impression is that a judge is acting outside the law and needlessly politicizing this (politicizing it on the blogs or in debate is fine; in a courtroom, not so much).

Diversity and the demcorat agenda

Looks like this:

DETROIT (WWJ) – According to a new report, 47 percent of Detroiters are ”functionally illiterate.” The alarming new statistics were released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund on Wednesday. WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with the Fund’s Director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, who explained exactly what this means. “Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job — those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take… just your basic everyday tasks,” she said.

Heh! And we wonder why? This is what you get when the left and the unions control your school. When you tell minorities that an education is a waste of time and that the America will never provide any opportunity for them. This is what you get when people are told that that multiculturalism thing and actually sticking to the three Rs are more important than wasting your time with the feel good bullshit indoctrination that passes for an education these days. Detroit is bought and owned by the left.

“I don’t really know how they get by, but they do. Are they getting by well? Well, that’s another question,” Tyler-Ruiz said. Some of the Detroit suburbs also have high numbers of functionally illiterate: 34 percent in Pontiac and 24 percent in Southfield. “For other major urban areas, we are a little bit on the high side… We compare, slightly higher, to Washington D.C.’s urban population, in certain ZIP codes in Washington D.C. and in Cleveland,” she said. Tyler Ruiz said only 10 percent of those who can’t read have gotten any help to resolve it.

Oh come on, the answer is simple: they have ignored the abysmal results of the school system and have patched that with bigger government programs to keep the serfs from eating each other alive.

The report will be used to provide better training for local workers.

QED. Seriously. When will they see things like this as an indictment of the left’s takeover of our education system and finally end the stranglehold they have on so many communities? Never, I guess. Who cares if these tools – and they are tools in a game to the left – are functionally illiterate? Shit, more work for social workers! It’s all a job creation program. Insane is an understatement.