New York Times criticism missing the bigger picture on Detroit

Letters to the Editor |

March 13, 2013 — I’m afraid that Mike Alberti [in “New York Times flogs pension problems, ignores regional context in Detroit post-mortem”] is merely looking at different trees than the Times reporter[s], but still missing the forest.

The Detroit story is another instance of the recapture of urban land by developers, real estate speculators, and banks at very low prices, and the plan for wholesale neighborhood gentrification by white collar residents dissatisfied with suburbia. If one thinks of urban renewal mixed with neoliberal union busting and service cutting, the Detroit story becomes less opaque. About a week earlier the Times had a story about white collar employees of revitalized General Motors and other corporations returning to the city and seeking upscale amenities.

As Detroit becomes synonymous with blight and bankruptcy, taxes will fall, land prices will fall further, and business relocation incentives will be plentiful. New shopping and residential enclaves will emerge as longtime residents of beautiful locations throw in the towel. These enclaves will demand and receive special police protection and although there will not be visible gates, these islands will be fortified. But none of this creative destruction will happen until bankers and developers are assured that the voices of redistributive policies — unions, old-style Democrats, [and] social service agencies — have been silenced. That is the big picture, globally.

— Richard Keiser, Northfield, Minn.

The writer is a professor and the chair of political science at Carleton College.


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