MSNBCs Melissa Harris Perry Blames Detroit Bankruptcy on Small Government

(Photo: MSNBC)

On Friday, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry put forth a theory as to why Detroit inevitably went bankrupt — terminal lack of government.

We’ll do our best to explain.

While discussing Detroit’s downfall, Harris-Perry and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean agreed that “you’ve got to have a government to run the place.”

Harris-Perry noted Detroit’s declining population, and in turn its tax base. The population of the city has declined dramatically over the last 10 years.

Mediaite’s Noah Rothman, who calls the MSNBC host’s assessment “delusional,” provides some analysis and facts:

Harris-Perry presents this fact as though former Detroit residents left – estimated in 2011 at one resident every 22 minutes — on a whim without making a cost/benefit calculation as to whether to continue to reside in a city with one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation with a poverty rate of a staggering 40 percent.

Furthermore, since Detroit’s population has fallen below 750,000, it was not legally allowed to collect income taxes from its residents until Gov. Rick Snyder and the state’ legislature reduced that threshold to 600,000 two years ago. The city’s population hovers today around 700,000 residents.

Nonetheless, Harris-Perry went on to claim that “this lack of tax base is also exactly the thing that many Republicans would impose on us even when our cities have sufficient populations.”

“This is what it looks like when government is small enough to drown in your bathtub and it is not a pretty picture,” she added.

But the facts tell a slightly different story. National Review’s Kevin Williamson in 2011, in the lead up to Detroit’s demise, wrote:

Detroit maintains 13,000 government workers but has 22,000 government retirees burrowed into the body politic, and their health-care subsidies alone account for nearly $200 million of the city’s budget. Pensions alone already account for a quarter of city spending; in three years, they will account for half. Pensions and city workers’ health-care subsidies account for $561 per year from every resident of Detroit, which has a very poor population — average monthly income of barely $1,200 before taxes, a fifth of the population in poverty, etc. The official unemployment rate is 30 percent; the real rate is much higher.

Further, the city voted to “allocate $28.1 million from departments across the city to pay for pension costs that are still due from last year.” Detroit also “declared a moratorium on principal and interest payments on the city’s unsecured debt” in June.

“Detroit has a lot of problems. Having too small a government has never been one of them. On this topic, it would appear, Harris-Perry is either not being honest or is not properly informed of the legacy burdens Detroit’s city government must to shoulder,” Rothman concludes.

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