Saving Detroit — Or Not
“Even when people set their own houses on fire, we still dial 9-1-1, hoping to save lives, salvage what we can and protect the rest of the neighborhood.”
–Bob Herbert, “‘Drop Dead’ is Not an Option” (The New York Times; 11/15/08)
Great analogy, but Herbert doesn’t push it nearly far enough in making his case for why Washington should come to Detroit’s rescue.
When an arsonist torches their own house, do we really write them a check — or give them a loan — for 50X its market value? General Motors’ market value today is less than $2 billion; the amount being bandied about as part of any rescue effort, including sums already disbursed, is around $100 billion.
If the house in question was structurally unsound — and in fact, condemned — would you still risk men and materiel to extinguish the blaze?
Even if the house was once grand, and may still have good “bones,” do you really ignore all the smoke and water damage, and try to re-build, regardless? What if the owner, to save money, had skimped on things like maintenance and insurance — or quit paying the premiums altogether? And the surrounding block is full of other, nicer homes that are also for sale?
Oh . . . and once the fire is put out, what does society do with serial arsonists??
*Actually, there’s an even better analogy than arson to explain how the house caught fire: the owner was carelessly making “meth” in the basement — and had bribed the police to look the other way!
Financially, geopolitically, environmentally, and yes, morally, gas-guzzling SUV’s like the Hummer were the automotive equivalent of “meth.” Congress steered clear because of Detroit’s lobbying clout.