The Detroit Blame Game


outfoxedYears ago, when I was an undergraduate in Boston, I went and saw the film Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004). If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to do so, if only to get a sense for why many people rip on Fox News — not that the attacks seem to harm the network’s success.

One of the major criticisms of the film was that other networks were more parochial, biased, and misleading, playing to their own partisan audiences. The but-he’s-doing-it-too argument is childish and carries little sway with me. Regardless, though, at the time I was unfamiliar with television in the United States and wasn’t in a position to assess the accuracy of such a statement.

Even now, I get most of my news through alternative media, but I am in a better position to assess the merits of the other major networks. Unfortunately, many networks such as MSNBC make Fox look good.

The downfall of Detroit has provided one such example that compels me to respond. This Ed Show segment may be one of the most misleading and counterproductive clips I have ever seen. Its blatant rejection of simple facts, in favor of assigning blame to political enemies, defies belief.

To begin with, he calls Detroit a “conservative utopia.” Right, and how many conservatives have been either in control of Detroit or celebrating its policy decisions? Oh, Detroit has had Democratic mayors for more than fifty years, and Michigan as a whole has been at the back of the pack for economic freedom for a long time now.

The problem here is not so much the party favoritism — these labels are of little importance to me — the concealing of the truth is far worse. While Ed Schultz rails about limited public services as the cause for Detroit’s loss of population — “small enough to drown in your bathtub,” one of his colleagues claims — the fact is that people migrate to where there is less government, not more.

Research from the Mercatus Center, which ranks states based on economic freedom, has demonstrated an undeniable migration link. People know where freedom is, and it isn’t in Detroit, Michigan, where the city has been closing twenty “unlicensed” businesses per week. The state lost 5.6 percent of its population in the last decade, while the city lost 25 percent.

These attacks on spending cuts also mislead the audience, since they’ve been simply unavoidable. Given US$18 billion in debt and a population of just over 700,000, that comes to US$25,700 of debt per individual. Per capita income in the city, by comparison, is just US$14,213.

As the saying goes, what can’t happen won’t happen, and the payment of these debts is such an instance. Just as for individuals and families, when municipal revenues cannot sustain expenses, one must sell off assets and downsize — even if that means the class of government workers, not the “middle class,” will have to tighten their belts.

There are many other misleading claims within the clip, but rather than wade through those, let us address why these deceptions are so problematic. If you have the stomach to watch through the clip, you’ll see that Bernie Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, joins Schultz, and the faulty information allows them to propose similarly faulty courses of action. Along with more government spending in Detroit — with more debt and a bailout from the federal level, presumably — they call for a federal “jobs” program, trade protectionism, and firm opposition to the sale of assets or privatization.

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