Political rhetoric aside, the Great Recession of 2009 has not provoked
unemployment numbers anywhere near the 25 percent rates seen at the height of the
Great Depression. Except in Detroit.
This summer, Detroit's
official unemployment rate hit a record 28.9 percent. The city's economic pain
was on public display Wednesday as a riot scene out of the 1930s erupted here.
An estimated 35,000 city residents rushed
the doors of Cobo Hall in a desperate attempt to grab 5,000 federal assistance
applications made available to Detroit
as part of the "Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program," a federal stimulus
fund designed to help residents pay rent and utility bills.
The resulting chaos is symbolic not only of Detroit's plight
but also of the wild lunge for free money that has been the hallmark of the $18
billion in stimulus money thrown at Michigan since last spring.
Tens of millions of dollars have been siphoned for pie-in-the-sky
public-rail projects once dismissed as boondoggles, or for trendy green
items such as twisty
light bulbs, or for low-priority road projects, or for a Detroit
public school system whose accounting system is notoriously corrupt. Another
$1.4 billion will plug a gaping hole in the state budget, putting off sorely
needed structural reforms.
Inside Cobo, thousands kicked and clawed for applications, ripping them from
one another's hands. Many were trampled and sirens wailed as ambulances
escorted six people to local hospitals.
A fitting metaphor for federal stimulus spending run amok.
Permission to reprint this blog post in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author (or authors) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy are properly cited.