Eco-Living Magazine

Making Cents: Bankruptcy From Detroit to DC

Posted on the 21 August 2013 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev
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“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” – Joe Biden

Communities express their values in myriad ways. Streets at their best can reflect a commitment to safety, environmentalism, public health; at their worst, danger, pollution, unhealthy lifestyles. Budgets, in a similar yet more direct way, demonstrate in plain terms where a community invests. A budget is an opportunity to put one’s money where one’s mouth is, for better or for worse. Everyone seems to value sustainability these days, but do their budgets reflect that?

That brings us to Detroit and DC. While popular culture’s rubbernecking of Detroit continues, Southeast Michigan grapples with the unsurprising news of bankruptcy in Motor City. While there are numerous factors, largely stemming from the exodus of massive employers, Detroit’s history of financial and budgetary starvation is going largely unnoticed. Over the past decades, federal and state funding has largely supported new development on the fringe of urban areas, while ignoring the inner city. Like in most American metropolises, these investments have encouraged development in the suburbs and disinvestment in downtowns, supporting unsustainable auto-oriented communities on the fringe and unsustainable budgets in cities with shrinking revenue. These marco-budget decisions are environmentally unfriendly and in opposition to strong regional economies. Also, the state of Michigan limits property tax increases,  tying the hands of Detroit and making it nearly impossible to balance the budget, especially in lean years like 2008.

Detroit’s predicament is all the more unsettling in the context of federal DC looking like a parallel universe. With the release of Mark Leibovich’s “This Town”, there appears to be an absence of the kind of budgetary values that are needed to assist struggling metropolises. While things like the Affordable Care Act have significantly spread health care coverage to the poor, investments that create jobs and produce long term value aren’t currently budgetary priorities in DC. Maybe Joe Biden is prone to saying the wrong thing, but at least he knows where to look when evaluating the important things, one’s budget.

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