Politics

George Will: Detroit doesn’t have a fiscal problem, but a ‘cultural collapse’

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Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

On Sunday’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on ABC, Washington Post columnist George Will took on proponents of federal assistance for Detroit, which declared bankruptcy earlier this month.

According to Will, the city isn’t undergoing a fiscal crisis, but is facing a much more serious cultural one, which is the source of its woes.

“Can’t solve the problems because the problems are cultural,” Will said. “You have a city, 139 square miles. You can graze cattle in vast portions of it. Dangerous herds of feral dogs roam in there. You have 3 percent of fourth graders reading at the national math standards. Forty-seven percent of Detroit residents are functionally illiterate. Seventy-nine percent of Detroit children are born to unmarried mothers. They don’t have a fiscal problem, Steve. They have a cultural collapse.”

The Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel objected to Will’s analysis, arguing Detroit was more a victim of deindustrialization.

“I find that really insulting to the people of Detroit. I think there’s a serious discussion about the future of cities in a time of deindustrialization. But in many ways, Detroit has been a victim of market forces, and I think what Steve [Ratner] said is so critical. Retirees and workers should not bear this. And it should not be about greedy public unions and fiscal responsibility.”

Will referenced an op-ed in the July 20 New York Times by Steve Rattner, President Barack Obama’s former so-called auto bailout czar. In it, Rattner insists on aiding the Motor City, however, he did  cite self-governance as one of the areas where Detroit residents are responsible.

“What Steve said in his op-ed was ‘the people of Detroit are no more to blame than the victims of Hurricane Sandy, because apart from voting,’ you said,” Will added. “Well, what did they vote for? For 60 years, they voted for incompetents, malcontents and in some cases, criminals.”

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