Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Detroit and Flint: Runis of Past Economic Empires

During the super bowl, a commercial for the Chrysler 200 was aired.  Images of urban industry and a former glory are pieced together, in what seems to be Chrysler’s attempt to reinvigorate the power of a once thriving city.  Detroit is a city that has been “to Hell and back,” is what this commercial rings, and I can only wonder, “Did they really come back?”   “This is the Motor City, and this is what we do.”   While Chrysler has produced a moving advertisement, I’m afraid the facts point to reality.

The reality that as of last May, Chrysler was the only automobile company to have more than two production facilities in Detroit.  Looking back over the last 50 years, just Ford and General Motors Company moved more than forty production facilities from Detroit, and many of those moves have been within the last thirty years.  Now include other automobile companies in the mix, and that number increases to at least 100.  If you look at nearby Flint, Michigan, you will see the same story as playing out in Detroit.  Can Detroit continue to be called the “Motor City” when, like most cities, built upon the foundations of the industrial revolution, changes in business practices, and technology have led to the downfall of an economic empire.  Why produce in Detroit, when you can produce in states or countries where production and exports cost less?  Capitalism says, “Follow the money,” which ultimately leaves places like Detroit and Flint, Michigan devastated. 

Many have taken on the automobile industry, Michael Moore being the most public figure, to show what their decisions have cost the people.  However, I think the greatest picture of this impact was released this week, with the result of the 2010 census data.  “…Census data on Tuesday showed that Detroit’s population had plunged by 25 percent over the last decade” (New York Times).  From the time of the Ford’s automobile revolution, Detroit grew to be among the largest cities in the country.  Today, it is known as the city with the largest percentage population drop in history, even larger than the drop in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (New York Times).  While population loss is one affect, look at the social affects the decline in employment has birthed, including increased crime, increased poverty, and declines in infrastructure.  Detroit is currently the third most dangerous place to live in the United States, not to mention Flint, Michigan is number four.  Determined by the reported amount of  violent and property crimes per 100K, one can only imagine what it would be like, had things been different, had the automobile industry stuck with the people, for the people.  What will happen to places like Detroit in the days to come, we can only speculate, but from where I’m sitting, I doubt Chryslers’ commercial will lead to any major improvements.  

To see the Chrysler commercial visit:

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