It's now been a week since Detroit filed for bankruptcy and yet ABC, CBS and NBC have resisted considering what caused the financial failure, details such as the city's massively high tax rate, failed educational system and the total Democratic dominance for over 50 years. On Sunday's Meet the Press, anchor David Gregory bluntly asked Chuck Todd, a former Democratic operative, who was responsible for Detroit's collapse: "...Who let Detroit down? Which politicians let them down?"
Rather than point out that Democrats have controlled the city for 51 years, that Republicans haven't held the mayor's office since 1962, Todd evasively responded, "I think there was poor governance in Detroit for a very long time. This turned into a machine political town." Who was responsible for the poor governance? Which machine in particular? Todd didn't say. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Todd, whose wife is also a former Democratic operative, instead rambled about the city's history, mentioning former city mayors David Archer and Coleman Young (both Democrats, although he didn't point that out). In reference to reform efforts, he added, "But you know, one mayor couldn't change things because you had 30 years of cronyism. It was a machine."
Of course, the main point is that Detroit was a Democratic machine. If one is interested in knowing who "let Detroit down," wouldn't it be helpful to mention who ran it for the last half century?
Gregory, to his credit did note the way "politicians speak about Detroit." He then played a clip of Barack Obama from last year: "We refuse to throw in the towel and do nothing. We refuse to let Detroit go bankrupt. I bet on American workers and American ingenuity and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way."
One question to ask would be why has Detroit gone bankrupt? NBC, as well as CBS and ABC, have ignored the fact that the city is "ranked first among the 50 largest U.S. cities in taxes and last among property values, " according to the Detroit News. Detroit has only a 62 percent graduation rate, yet a powerful teachers union blocks change.
Instead, on the July 19 CBS Evening News and July 20 edition of This Morning, reporter Mark Strassmann focused his attention not on looking for a cause. Instead, he worried about the potential loss of benefits for city officials: "And city workers, owed nine billion dollars in benefits and pensions, oppose this bankruptcy the most." Strassmann added, "It's your retirement that's on the line."
On July 21, CBS reporter Terrell Brown wondered, "One major question, after the success of the federal auto industry bailout in 2008, will Detroit ask Washington for help again?"
Even though the network couldn't find time to analyze the reasons behind Detroit's implosion, the July 21 Evening News did highlight how "Detroit is home to one of the most prestigious collections of arts in the world, and one of the options on the table is for all of that to be sold."
ABC offered very little in the way of reporting, covering the story initially on July 19 and 20 and then again on the 24th in a news brief.
On the July 19 Nightly News, correspondent Gabe Gutierrez found a bright side, noting, "But in Detroit, some view this as a fresh start. They point out that the unemployment rate has dropped substantially from its peak of 27.8 percent four years ago to 16.3 today."
A transcript of the July 21 Meet the Press exchange is below:
DAVID GREGORY: Chuck Todd, who let Detroit down? Which politicians let them down?
CHUCK TODD: I think there was poor governance in Detroit for a very long time. This turned into a machine political town, if you followed that. In my 25 years of following politics, you know, it was a city -- and I remember the first reform movement of Detroit, when Dennis Archer got elected mayor, sort of when they replaced in the Coleman Young era, it was that first attempt.
And there was a lot of cities that did that. You saw a whole movement. It was here in Washington, D.C., the first post Marion Berry mayor. And you saw these attempts. But you know, one mayor couldn't change things because you had 30 years of cronyism. It was a machine.
TODD: But if I told you -- I'm sorry, if I told you that a city on the border of America's largest trading partner couldn't figure out how to diversify its economy, you have to sit there and say it was not just poor city government, poor business leadership, poor governance -- it is sort of remarkable that Detroit, where it's located, it ended up in this position.