The Detroitification of America

A 2010 article that couldn’t be more relevant today:


Like a forgotten downtown billboard, Detroit proclaims a warning about the rest of America for any who will stop and look.

If ever an American city was a warning for the nation, it is Detroit. Its crumbling mansions, overgrown boulevards and abandoned factories drive a message home to those who will pay attention. We cannot afford to ignore this once-great city. Why? What killed Detroit is killing America.

Detroit used to be synonymous with wealth and prosperity. It was a city humming with big-finned cars and Motown rhythms. Factories churned out products that ended up on store shelves around the world. Full employment empowered high salaries, flourishing schools and manicured storefronts, with flashy neon lights lining the boulevards. Multiple generations of families shared the same streets and barbecues.

In its heyday, Detroit had the highest median income and highest rate of home ownership in the country. It also had one of the highest standards of living of any major city in America—and hence, probably the world. People flocked there to transform the American dream into reality.

Today, the view from General Motors world headquarters, downtown at Renaissance Tower, is different.

Shattered Dreams

Take the average Detroit high school student to the top for the panoramic view, then describe in chrome tones what the Motor City used to be like. He would probably think you were joking.

There are two reasons that student would be confused.

One: The reality on the ground is that the city is a ruined, decaying, post-industrial, almost post-apocalyptic ghost town. At its peak, Detroit boasted almost 2 million residents. Today, more than half of that number are gone. Astoundingly, even the dead are leaving. Suburban dwellers who don’t want to risk heading into the city to visit gravesides are having their deceased relatives dug up and transferred to local cemeteries.

More surreally, unburied bodies are piling up as well, the Times reported in November. That month, the number of unclaimed bodies reached a record high. The dead were not murder victims—although crime is soaring, and Detroit remains the murder capital of America. Most of these dead died of natural causes; it is just that family members cannot afford to bury them; the city can’t afford to bury them either, so they pile up in the freezers.

Two: Most students have a poor grasp of history. In 2008, less than 25 percent of freshmen actually ended up graduating from high school—the worst rate in the country. Almost half of Detroit adults are considered functionally illiterate.

Gazing out over Detroit, you would see a city in transformation—or is it disintegration? In contrast to the shiny new GM tower, Detroit is cannibalizing itself. Over 60,000 abandoned, gutted and stripped houses populate the landscape. With each new foreclosure, another home opens itself up to vandals, thieves and arsonists. On one street alone, you can see six partially burned homes without moving your feet. Wrecked, abandoned homes push property prices down further, which encourages other underwater homeowners to mail in the keys too.

Fading From History

But as troubled as Detroit is, it is positioned to get worse. Official U.S. unemployment stands at 10 percent, but real national unemployment is over 17 percent and rising (as measured by the Labor Department’s U6 unemployment figure, which includes part-time workers who want full-time jobs and discouraged job seekers who have stopped looking for work). Unemployment in Michigan is 20.9 percent. In Detroit, virtually half the workforce is unemployed—a rate far higher than during the Great Depression. And there is no U-turn in sight.

With so many people out of work, property owners had better hope that lawmakers are able to keep extending unemployment insurance. Residents should also hope that the Chinese keep lending America money, because if they ever stop, so will the welfare payments. And that means that Detroit is a powder keg with massive explosive potential. The gangs of Detroit will head to the suburbs.

America needs to wake up to what Detroit has become.

The forces that built Detroit into an economic superpower also helped build America into a superpower. Now the forces that destroyed Detroit are doing the same throughout the country.

The reason America (and Detroit) became so prosperous stems from an ancient promise God made. You can read about it in the book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. It is because of that promise that America became the inheritor of almost half a continent—and not just any continent. When the pilgrims arrived they became the recipients of a vast, pristine land, overflowing with the choicest of agricultural, mineral, hydrologic and geographic blessings imaginable.

America’s historic leadership in industry and technology—the fact that America used to be the largest oil, coal and steel producer in the world, that it used to be a major net food exporter, that it once was the world’s factory, that it used to control and own the strategic Panama Canal sea gateway, that it is the only country to ever put a man on the moon—was a blessing that directly trickled down from the fulfillment of that promise.

In short, it was God who showered blessings upon Detroit—and America. It was God who provided America with its formerly unrivaled levels of prosperity.

And it is because the conditions of retaining those blessings have been broken that those blessings are now being removed. It is all about cause and effect. Sustained blessings for obedience, and curses for disobedience—it is a basic principle of the Bible (Leviticus 26). And it is a principle that we would all do well to remember.

Detroit is a warning for America. Read the billboard. Detroitification is heading toward a city near you.

Full article: The Detroitification of America (The Trumpet)

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