Opinion: Columnists

Terrence Jeffrey: Obama's vision for America looks a lot like Detroit

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President Obama traveled to Michigan this week and made his case for class war in defense of the welfare state.

We need to take more money from the rich, he said, or schools will not be able to afford books, students will not be able to afford college and disabled children will not get health care.

"Our economic success has never come from the top down," said Obama. "It comes from the middle out. It comes from the bottom up."

Obama spoke these words a few miles from Detroit -- the reductio ad absurdum of his argument.

Obama's economic and moral vision has played out in that city. What he seeks has been achieved there.

Last week, as reported by the Detroit Free Press, Michigan's state treasurer told Detroit's mayor and city council that the state may soon appoint an emergency financial manager for the city. Under Michigan law, the paper said, only such a manager can initiate the steps leading to a bankruptcy filing for the city.

By current calculations, Detroit faces obligations over the next six months that exceed its revenues by $47 million. The city, the Free Press reported, now pays $1.08 in benefits to municipal workers and retirees for every dollar it pays in salary.

What happened to Detroit? It is achieving socialism in one city.

Traditional two-parent families and the productive taxpaying citizens they produce have fled. In 1950, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Detroit had 1,849,568 people and was the fifth-largest city in the nation. By 2000, its population had dropped to 951,270; by 2010, to 713,777; and by 2011, to 706,585.

What has happened to the people who remain? The Census Bureau estimates there are 563,055 people age 16 or older in the city who could potentially work and be part of the labor force. But only 54.3 percent of these -- or 305,479 individuals -- actually do.

The 257,576 people in Detroit who neither work nor seek work outnumber the 224,846 residents who have jobs. And of those who work, 34,500 -- or 15.3 percent -- work for the government. Thus, this city that boasted 1,849,568 residents in 1950 has only 190,346 private-sector workers today.

Very few of the people who are staying out of the labor force in Detroit are staying out because they are stay-at-home moms with working husbands. Of the 264,209 households in Detroit, only 24,275 -- or 9.2 percent -- are married couple families with children under 18. Another 78,438 households -- or 29.7 percent of the total -- are families headed by women with no husband present. Of these, 43,742 have children under 18.

There were 12,103 babies born in Detroit in the 12 months prior to the Census Bureau survey, and 9,124 of them -- or 75.4 percent -- were born to unmarried women.

Of the 363,281 housing units in Detroit, 99,072 are vacant. Indeed, vacant houses have become a powerful visual symbol of what advancing socialism has done to the city. Traditional family life is nearing extinction in this once vibrant corner of America.

Obama said in Michigan that if the federal government does not take more money away from people who have earned it, the public schools may not be able to buy school books. But the Department of Education says that in the Detroit public schools -- which have books -- only 7 percent of the eight graders are grade-level proficient in reading and only 4 percent are grade-level proficient in math.

School books are not lacking here. Self-reliance, the spirit of individualism, and the Judeo-Christian values that support marriage and family are. They have been driven by a government that wants the people to depend on it rather than on themselves, their families and their faith.

Examiner Columnist Terence P. Jeffrey is syndicated by Creators.

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