Higgins: Does Size Matter?Written by Tim Higgins | | email@example.com
Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder is about to appoint an emergency manager to take over the broken finances of what was once one of America’s great cities, Detroit. Declining tax revenues, ruinous union contracts, and residential abandonment have all contributed to a situation that now appears beyond the ability of politicians like Mayor Dave Bing or his city council to solve. Few around the nation are arguing the necessity of this action, and while Mayor Bing looks at his options, there is little chance that they or the appeals process, will sway the Governor from a choice that he’s apparently made, but has yet to announce. What crimes have Mayor Bing and his predecessors committed that has earned them the usurpation of their elected authority in the Motor City? Being in power when Detroit’s budget deficit exceeded $20 billion dollars.
By contrast, President Obama took the helm on a national debt of about $10.025 trillion after the 2008 fiscal year ended, and in the intervening four years has seen it rise to $16.7 trillion (an increase of some 60 percent). Based on his first term, it takes little in the way of mathematical wizardry to predict it will climb beyond the $20 trillion before the end of President’s second term. One must therefore give due consideration as to whether such a budget manager must of needs be considered for a nation whose deficit will soon be 1,000 times greater than that of Detroit.
Certainly many of the problems are the same in both situations. As the economy stalls and more people remain unemployed, overall tax revenues (adjusted for inflation) are not where they they can solve the problem. Even attempts to raise rates cannot succeed since there isn’t a high enough tax rate to compensate for current spending; and would likely stall an economy that’s struggling to recover. National public sector union employees are increasing; and wages, benefits, and pensions remain at a much higher levels than their private sector counterparts. One could even make the case that residential abandonment is occurring, as foreign workers (documented or otherwise) desert a nation with fewer jobs to provide.
There is no provision for such a plan in the Constitution (which is problem for Constitutional Textualists like me), but that should be of little concern to many of the nation’s more progressive thinkers, who barely pay lip service to this a 224 year-old document that was designed to prevent exactly the kind of overreach that this kind of concept entails. Yet despite the extra-Constitutional nature of the idea, one can’t help but be drawn to it’s simplicity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have someone with real financial experience monitoring the national checkbook? Wouldn’t it be grand if we could get someone above the political fray and constant squabbling between the Executive and Legislative branches? Wouldn’t it be a relief to have someone not beholden to special interest groups, lobbyists, and party affiliations that could do what’s best for the people of this nation instead of scoring points for one side or the other in a broken two-party game.
Such simplicity however, is exactly the kind of errant thinking that plays into the tyrants hands. This is how the Roman Republic was subverted to the will of the Caesars. This is how dictators through the ages from Alexander to Hitler have begun their march towards power. For if a group of good people cannot come together, set aside petty differences, political gamesmanship, and the quest for power for the common good. If they cannot then set aside their responsibilities and retire afterward to private life; how then shall one individual be found with the ability to block their ears to the siren song of such power? We were fortunate enough to have begun our national undertaking with someone of George Washington’s strength. Who believes that there is one among us now with a similar resolve to set aside such power for the common good?
Which make Detroit’s situation all the more instructive and compelling. If Governor Snyder goes through with his appointment, as it seems all but certain he will, what kind of place will Detroit become? What will it learn to do for itself (that perhaps the nation hasn’t) in order to some day rid itself of this imposed outsider? Then too, in light of the financial situations in places like California and Illinois, similarly riddled with untenable debt without apparent resolution, will they too find a greater authority imposed upon them to secure their debt? At what point will City Charters or State Constitutions consider being set aside in the name of fiscal salvation? Before too long, one of the ultimate questions will be answered in this debate: Does size matter?