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Detroit plays Ozymandias

Detroit, once one of the nation’s most prosperous city, has declared bankruptcy. It’s sad, but not at all surprising. Like many municipalities, Detroit is struggling under the burden of unfunded and underfunded pensions, as well as other debt.

This one chart paints the picture pretty well:

detroit debt

Detroit has about half the population it did at its peak in the 1950s. Its decline is well documented, so much so it has its own Wikipedia page.

However, bankruptcy can help cities recover from financial difficulties, particularly those built into the system by previous generations, so this may actually be an opportunity for Detroit. But they’ve hit a roadblock.

Michigan Circuit Judge Rosemary Aquilina, who appears to have a stalkeresque crush on President Obama is not pleased with how the bankruptcy reflects on The One.  “It’s also not honoring the (United States) president, who took (Detroit’s auto companies) out of bankruptcy.”

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She also ordered her judgment be transmitted to Obama. No this isn’t creepy at all.

aquilina 2
At least she didn’t draw hearts and “xoxo” on it.

The main thrust of her order — other than the “I’m telling my boyfriend” thing — is that she claims the Michigan Constitution forbids pensions from being reduced. If that holds up, Detroit is screwed. Or rather, the state of Michigan, who will have to bail out Detroit, is screwed. And most likely that means that the rest of Americans will be asked (told) to pony up. If that becomes the precedent, expect a lot of other municipalities and even states to follow.  And then we’re in a lot of trouble.

The unfortunate fact is that we cannot continue to pay for the promises made in an economic boom in times economic bust. The continued transfer of wealth from the young to the old will bankrupt more than Detroit.

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