It’s happening in pronounced fashion in New York, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. Evidence of its growing presence exists throughout the US. For the sake of brevity however, let’s just focus on a couple of best examples. Detroit, Michigan and Youngstown, Ohio are microcosms representing something powerful occurring in the US. The degree to which something most Americans remain fairly oblivious. These two cities symbolize in manifest reality what most of us would struggle to imagine; except perhaps, in some apocalyptic themed movie. What would you envision if I told you these cities have declined by 60% in population, since the 1960’s? Every year – steadily – progressively; with unimaginable drops in the last decade. No big deal? Perhaps, just natural ebb and flow of society?
Detroit Skyline by Night
Detroit’s population dropped 25% in the last decade taking it from the 10th largest city in the US to 18th. No city, large or small can absorb those changes. Detroit’s unemployment is almost 20%. They have over 78,000 vacant buildings and that number grows daily. That’s seventy eight t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d – 1/4th – 1 quarter – over 25% of their total number of properties. Not empty and maintained – vacant and abandoned; left to crumble. 78,000 skyscrapers, schools, factories, office-commercial buildings, apartments, hospitals, churches, and homes. That’s more commercial and residential buildings and square footage of developed structural space than most US cities have in total. Blocks and neighborhoods and miles and miles … and miles … of abandoned civilization. According to the Detroit News, more than half of the owners of Detroit’s 305,000 properties failed to pay their 2011 taxes resulting in a quarter of a billion dollars in taxes and fees going uncollected. The review also found 77 blocks in Detroit had only one owner who paid taxes in 2011. Both Detroit and Youngstown have so many vacant and abandoned areas of development that it would be cheaper to level these areas and give it back to nature than it is to provide utilities and services to these areas. That is … if they could afford to level them. Nature on the other hand won’t wait and reclaims in daily increments, what lies in rust and ruin.
Detroit’s Other Skyline
Detroit is in a state of financial emergency and is on the verge of having the state assume governmental control. The state went as far as to assign a financial manager to oversee their fiscal issues. This however, doesn’t preclude Detroit from being forced into the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history in coming months. Detroit has borrowed for decades from any and every source that would extend credit. The city has operated this way so long that no one will extend them credit, any longer. Detroit is subsequently asking all of those they borrowed from to be gracious and dismiss or defer their existing debt – and extend them yet, more credit. Detroit’s practice of ‘borrowing’ is in reality simply taking. It is the same practice they apply to their citizens. Those paying the exorbitant and ever-growing taxes. Hundreds-of-thousands of these souls have ceased to be subjects of the kingdom. They fled to find better lives, elsewhere. Remember the old adage however – “wherever you go … there you are“. Many of those leaving will take their beliefs and behavior with them. Further examination will help reveal why that fact remains important.
Abandoned Youngstown Home
I first became aware of the blight of decline in Youngstown, OH about five years, ago. I was looking at national housing cost averages and believed the information I read for Ohio, had to be incorrect. The comparative disparity was huge. A little research demonstrated the numbers were accurate and that generated curiosity, as to why. Same as Detroit. People leaving in literal droves. Many – very many – simply leaving properties to add to the expanse of urban decay, as no one would or could buy them. The complete why of this decline is both complicated and simple. One may blame the types of industry, local to these declining areas and it would certainly be part. But I would argue that it would ultimately be a small part. The ultimate reason for this decline is a cancerous economic reality that permeates all corners of the globe and is only growing. The base nature of humanity. Whether you are republican, democrat, or independent – communist, socialist, capitalist, or a virgo is irrelevant. The only difference between Detroit, MI and Youngstown, OH is size. The only difference between Detroit and many other American cities is time.
Detroit’s decay grows in abundance
A hundred years ago we had no federal tax. Today, the average American will work 4-5 months each year – just to pay respective [annual] federal and state taxes for that year. This burden on ‘middle-earth’ cannot be sustained. The manner of societal life that perpetually has those who elect to seek and embrace responsibility, make related contributions for the good of themselves and the [collective] whole, and be continually abused as the expected anchor and resource foundation for the want of humanity – cannot be maintained. What the heck does that mean? That means that the number of those taking is growing in relationship and proportion to the shrinking number of those giving. More takers – less givers. The complicated reasons for this are the makings of a thesis for some soul seeking to obtain their PhD. However, it can be summed up pretty easily for the rest of us. Those trying to grow good are tired. Those trying to grow good economically, personally, spiritually – any genuine good that will in turn naturally extend good to others. These efforts – any such efforts have been and are increasingly so pawed at through greater demands of the self-absorbed many that these souls are simply giving up; with many resorting to joining the takers. For instance – no doubt some are – but all of the owners of those Detroit properties that are in default on their taxes are not merely corrupt souls looking to scam others. The taxes in these areas of decline only increase exponentially, as the blind insane practice of bad government sees the answer to gaining collective operating funds – much of which is only used to perpetuate and even grow massive areas of societal waste – is to take these funds from those that have them. Taking from those that have invested much good. Indeed, ultimately [economically] collective good. Unless a view of collective contribution and reinvestment is embraced at least by most, the natural result will be to leave most with little to nothing.
Conversely – there are many that have been blessed to have vastly more than most. Extreme examples are perhaps the superstar professional athlete. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw made $56,000 in 1975. The 49er’s Joe Montana made approximately twice that amount in 1985 at just over $100,000. Cowboys Troy Aikman made $2,500,000 in 1995 and $7,000,000 the next year. The Colts Peyton Manning made $14,000,000 in 2005 and is scheduled to earn $20,000,000 in 2015 with the Denver Broncos. You see the trend. That’s more than 350 times what Terry Bradshaw made 40 years earlier. These same percentage increases in pay for performance exist nowhere except among the richest of the rich. These insane payouts ultimately create crushing burdens to the common middle class tax payer. It isn’t remotely exclusive to sports figures. Virtually all celebrities, high level entrepreneurs, politicians, and even low-income wage earners have exacted increasingly greater demands on the middle class citizen. These middle class are the souls buying tickets to games, pay-per-view screenings, theater tickets, DVDs, and all forms of entertainment media. These middle class pay the taxes that fund massive new stadiums and arenas for these superstar athletes to play in – that these citizens can now no longer afford to purchase tickets to attend. These middle class pay each and every political figure and public ‘servant’ salary. The lower income also, rely on the middle class to fund healthcare, education, subsidized housing, and myriad assistance and welfare programs through taxation. I am not opposed to taxation. Just as the baker from Stranger Than Fiction, I am perfectly willing to pay my fair share for the genuine betterment of all. ‘All’ however, has increasingly come to mean ‘some’ or even select few. There are vastly more tax breaks and incentives for the rich and lower-income than the middle class tax payer. More educational funding opportunities. There are more housing assistance programs to help those facing or have faced foreclosure or bankruptcy due to poor choices in home loans than assistance for a couple simply seeking to remortgage their existing home loan. That last point will cause me to wander greatly so I will leave it there. There is simply less and less reason to work hard and contribute for the betterment of the whole of society. Or perhaps better – there are increasingly inherent penalties for doing so. For to do so means you will be seen as being responsible and trustworthy and society will then see you only, as the fountain of provision to pay for their wants and needs and mistakes. (i.e., government bailout of General Motors – ironically headquartered in Detroit)
Everything is not going to be alright
This isn’t just a middle-class-relic rant. The middle class has been America’s wallet forever – and that wallet is all but empty. The middle class hasn’t seen pay increases that compete with inflation in decades. Most haven’t even received annual cost of living increases of any amount in years, as so many American companies dug in against the economic woes of the last few years. Many of these same companies have done away completely with traditional benefits like retirement or healthcare coverage, in any form. What appears to be traditional middle class is now largely made up of people living with massive credit-debt. Very soon there will remain no discernible middle class, as it will be squeezed into oblivion by greed from all sides. I am genuinely sorry for the world those following after my generation are receiving. Detroit and Youngstown are middle-America. They represent in many ways, the economic attitudes and behavior of heartland America – good and bad. The societal bleeding we see playing out in economic ways, in these cities are merely the more vivid wounds of our nation; those on the surface issuing the most blood. Make no mistake – there are other wounds festering below the surface that will begin to appear elsewhere across our nation, as more and more feel the squeeze of so much taking, from their lives. This taking is more than just of an economic nature and that is the deepest rub. Those trying to make things better by just working a bit harder and giving a bit more … are very very tired.
Just another abandoned Detroit school
I’m not a political kind of guy. Politics don’t ultimately impact for change in ways, I view as most meaningful and they can’t. Laws can make some treat me appropriately – but laws in this respect only serve as guards and fences for some to honor or not. I reference it often but I love the fictional conversation between Christ and Karl Marx.
Marx: I want to put a new coat on every man.
Christ: I want to put a new man in every coat.
In many ways these cities represent the type of negative societal impact that the cult of doomsday preppers are readying for. I was tempted to dig deeper into the societal cancer that Detroit and Youngstown represent but far greater minds than mine have and will dissect these monuments to modern humanity’s decline. I simply encourage all of us to look more closely – as the show we are viewing in these cities is coming to a city near each of us, soon – unless we each decide to become new souls in our coats. I believe the best way to ultimately accomplish this begins with the following.
John 14:6 (NIV) – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Click on this link or image below to take a quick tour of Abandoned Detroit:
Detropia – Documentary ponders the decay and future of Detroit: (Click image below for documentary trailer)
Trailer for Detropia Documentary