How Detroit got here: 10 reasons

The city was once an American powerhouse. Now it's the largest municipality to file for bankruptcy. Here's why it could not keep going.

By Kim Peterson Jul 18, 2013 6:05PM
The Motor City Casino and hotel is seen through a hole in the wall of an abandoned building along Grand River Avenue on May 1, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan (© Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)Detroit's bankruptcy was just a matter of time. The city's finances were an absolute mess, and residents have suffered for years because of it.

Detroit simply had no way out. But the bankruptcy is going to make everything worse before it gets better. Even more city employees now face layoffs, and valuable assets could get sold. Basic services for residents could be cut even further.

The city has thrown up its hands in what will become the largest city bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. And this case will drag on through the courts and likely end up ugly and painful for city employees and residents.

Detroit wants to wipe the slate clean, and it should. Because living in Detroit is no way to live. Here are 10 ways in which Detroit fell behind the rest of the nation:

1. Stark poverty. It's the poorest large city in the country, with more than a third of people living below the poverty line.

2. Crime is everywhere. The city has the highest crime rate of any large U.S. city. In a recent survey of the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in America by NeighborhoodScout.com, Detroit took the top spot.

3. People are fleeing. Some 250,000 people moved away in the past decade, cutting the population to about 700,000. Many of those leaving were in the upper and middle classes. Back in the 1950s, in Detroit's heyday, the population reached 1.8 million.

4. The city feels abandoned. When you have that many people leaving so quickly, taking valuable tax revenue with them, the impact is obvious. There are about 78,000 abandoned and blighted structures and 40% of the city street lights are dark, Reuters reports. Check out these photographs of Detroit by The Observer that show just how badly the city has deteriorated.

5. The police force is barely there. Detroit police take about 58 minutes, on average, to answer emergency calls.

6. There isn't enough medical help. Only a third of the city's ambulances even work.

7. People aren't paying taxes. Only 53% of homeowners actually paid property taxes in 2011.

8. City officials racked up the debt. Detroit is carrying a crushing $15 billion in debt. It needs to pay $246 million a year on that debt -- a whopping 20% of its general fund budget.

9. No one is lending it any more money. Detroit couldn't get money from anyone to keep going -- at least not at normal interest rates.

10. Trash is piling up on the streets. The city couldn't repair garbage trucks that had mechanical problems. And so the trash sat out uncollected for days, and would sometimes get collected as late as 11 p.m.

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1016Comments
Jul 18, 2013 6:36PM
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That's what happens when you have 40 years of social programs sucking up the taxpayers money...Detroit is the perfect example of what a liberal controlled government does. Keep raising those taxes and watch the taxpayers leave. Liberal politics have destroyed Detroit. When will Liberals realize you need to cater to your taxpayers not suck them dry till they run off.


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Detroit is the worst example of liberal politics run amok.  It's decline began right after the 1967 riots when it became clear that the citizens were not safe.  Any attempt to crack down on crime was met by accusations of racism or some silly "social" plan that was supposed to eradicate the roots of crime,

This decline occurred long before the auto companies began to falter and blaming them for Detroit's decline avoids the real issue.  Wake up everyone, you cannot let bad citizens run loose for any reason.

This is how neighborhoods change.......for the worse. 

Do you sell drugs, steal cars, beat people up or kill them.  Do you rob people or do poorly in school because you think it doesn't matter, (when everyone else knows it does).  Do you bully people because you are unwilling to make something of yourself.  Do you burn down houses.

I didn't think so.  Want to live where that happens.......?  Lots of empty lots in Detroit.  

Jul 18, 2013 10:03PM
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Detroit is the poster child for Democrats failure!

10 Reasons why Detroit is BANKRUPT!

1. Democrats run the city.

2. They are no white people

3. Only welfare democrats left, who do not pay into taxes.

4. Criminals

5.Thugs

6.. African American took over

7. Bad Teachers

8. Obama became president

9. Your not going to force white people to pay your  bills

10. Democrats and  MSN keep making up excuses for Democratic failure and keep blaming white people for their failure.

Jul 18, 2013 9:42PM
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President Lyndon Baines Johnson., Democrat,  called Detroit a shining example of The Great Society.  It is a perfect example of where liberal socialist/marxist policies take a city, ... a state ... and now,  the country.  Suckas!
Jul 18, 2013 8:45PM
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Liberalism is a disease, and those suffering are in complete denial and will blame everyone else claiming they are the victim of greed, when actually it is their greed for other people's money
Jul 18, 2013 11:38PM
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Detroit is a classic example of 2 major failures of gov.

The first is debt - Detroit has proven you can't borrow your way to prosperity.  Their debt service is 20% of their annual budget.  God help us all when interest rates return to historically normal levels - many more cities and states will be in trouble, along with the federal gov.

The second is completely unrealistic budgetary projections.  Most gov entities consistently over-estimate revenues and under-estimate spending in their long term projections.  Gov pension plans inevitably are based on unrealistic rates of return.  If anything, government should be extremely conservative when projecting future revenues and rates of return, and allow plenty of margin of error for future outlays.  In addition, they should have a rainy day fund set up that requires them to set aside a certain percentage of their budget every year.   If you want to be successful in business, you should always under-promise and over-deliver.  If you think about it, gov operates exactly the opposite way - always over-promising and under-delivering.
Jul 19, 2013 8:48AM
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Take comfort, Detroit.  Obama is doing his best to make sure the rest of America gets dumbed down to your level soon.  It won't help you, but it might make you feel better that the misery is being spread around equally.
Jul 18, 2013 9:10PM
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Obama stood up today and told us that his plans were going to save us money in the long run and would be a beacon of success, it is just a matter of time, if I didn't know better, I would think he was talking about Detroit. Got to wonder how that liberal progressive union thing is working out for the folks in Detroit now? Like Margaret Thatcher said, liberals are always looking for other peoples money to spend. I guess other peoples money finally ran out for Detroit. I still don't get it though, why aren't they blaming it on George Bush the Republicans?
Jul 18, 2013 11:16PM
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Number 8 is the one that matters. The city gave sweet heart deals to the unions to get the union votes and now the piper is coming for the payoff and the city can't pay.

This is going to happen all over the country. All the city union people that thought they would have great retirements are going to be working at Walmart until they die.
Jul 18, 2013 9:17PM
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Detroit got here because of being hog-tied to a bunch of socialist idiots being elected, constantly. Spending all you can, and never worrying about where that money comes from will do tht every time.
Jul 19, 2013 6:42AM
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Why did Detroit go Bankrupt? Why did we send money to Africa? It is not a dem. or repub issue.

There is a certain percentage, of the human population, that refuses to take responsibility for there own well being.

Jul 19, 2013 8:41AM
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I can summarize why Detroit went bankrupt in one word:  LIBERALISM.
Jul 18, 2013 7:11PM
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Wait a minute, half of these are not reasons the city got this way, but reflect the way it is now. The main reasons the city got this way is corrupt and inept leadership unwilling to let go of the past or to deal realistically with changing economic times or racial tensions. If the past is any reflection of the future, there will be a new wave of opportunity, but it is unfortunate the city has receded into such destitution before things will improve.  
Jul 18, 2013 11:40PM
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There is one reason that Detroit failed, Democrats!
Jul 19, 2013 8:48AM
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Can anyone say "Coleman Young"  The Democratic Black leadership in Detroit was the most corrupt around and kept getting re-elected by the predominately black population, so I guess you reap what you sow. 
Jul 19, 2013 8:42AM
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A BUNCH OF CROOKED MAYORS TO CITY OFFICIALS!!!  THATS WHY THEY WENT BANKRUPT

Jul 18, 2013 10:00PM
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Detoilet got this way because of all the sub humans living there. Anyone with a brain knows that. When is everybody going to wake up and realize all these sub humans do is destroy.
Jul 18, 2013 6:37PM
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Ask yourself, why did it get this way? We know the present.

Jul 18, 2013 8:22PM
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Detroit got abandoned like an old mining town.
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