Is Chicago the Next Detroit?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2014

Week in Review

Another big American city is having ‘Detroit’ problems.  And may soon follow Detroit down the Road to Serfdom.  The warning signs are all there.  But will this big American city—Chicago—listen?  Well, Chicago like Detroit is a big Democrat city.  So, no.  They will not heed the warning signs.  And will make things even worse by going more ‘Detroit’ (see Chicago Votes to Go the Way of Detroit by Michael Auslin posted 2/6/2014 on National Review).

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is increasingly a textbook example of how far the Democratic party has moved to the left since Bill Clinton’s day.

Emanuel, who cut his teeth in Clinton’s administration, just presided over a $1.9 billion increase in Chicago’s debt, only months after Moody’s downgraded the city’s bond ratings three notches based on its growing and unsustainable spending and debt obligations…

Old-line Democratic cities, it seems, have learned nothing from Detroit’s collapse. Wishful thinking, ignorance of the parallels, and misleading excuses are the common defenses trotted out by city administrators who have no intention of having to deal with the mess they have either made or worsened. Indeed, Emanuel explicitly rejected the Detroit comparison, arguing that, unlike the Motor City, which was fatally dependent on the auto industry, Chicago has “an extremely diverse economy where no one sector is more than 13 percent of the employment.”

That may be true now, but surely Emanuel knows that Illinois’s and Chicago’s high tax rates are causing a business exodus. The Chicago Tribune recently highlighted ten major companies threatening to leave Illinois and the Chicago area, including the Chicago Board of Trade, U.S. Cellular, and CME Group, the world’s biggest futures exchange company. Part of Chicago’s problem is being stuck in Illinois, which has the country’s third-highest unemployment rate, a dysfunctional state government, and crippling taxes that have led over 30 companies to cross over the state line to Indiana recently. But Chicago’s own borrowing and profligate pension promises will continue to eat away at its credit rating and desirability of doing business there. All this will help hollow out the city and its tax base, and eventually could lead to an all-too-familiar downward spiral once the productive elements of the city decide the benefits of staying don’t outweigh the costs of moving.

Of course the reason why Emanuel is throwing Chicago into this black hole of debt is because he is a Democrat.  And that’s how Democrats win elections.  By buying votes.  With a lot of good-paying jobs in the public sector.  Jobs with generous benefits.  Especially in retirement.  Thanks to profligate pension promises.  Requiring a large portion of city taxes to go to pay these underfunded pension obligations.  That are so underfunded they need to borrow money in addition to those high taxes to meet those pension obligations.

This is exactly what happened in Detroit.  The massive cost of their public sector became harder and harder to pay for.  So they began to fleece businesses as much as they could.  With higher taxes, fines, fees, regulations, etc.  Which only chased businesses out.  Making their problem worse.  For they never cut their spending.  Even though half of their tax base had disappeared they still tried to spend as if their tax base never shrunk from its high in the Sixties.  And we see where that led to.  Bankruptcy.  Something Chicago is now flirting with.  And a fate they will share if they don’t cut back their spending to what they can support without fleecing businesses out of the city.

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