Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Two-Cent Tuesday: Haste n Waste
Anyway, one of the things that really bugs me is how wasteful we are as a country. I don't just mean the way we throw out enough food every Thanksgiving to feed probably half of Africa. I mean in particular the wasteful way in which we manage our most valuable resource: land.
As someone who works in Detroit, every single day I see plenty of abandoned buildings: houses, apartments, stores, and office buildings. Those abandoned buildings create all sorts of problems: crime, vermin, and they're just damned ugly. That's why they call it "blight." At the same time as someone who lives in the suburbs I'll be on my way home and see someone putting up a new office building or a new shopping plaza or whatever.
The incongruity of this bugs me. OK, I get some of the problem is that you don't want to put a storefront in where there's no one around. But really there are a bunch of companies who build these big new office buildings when there's tons of already available commercial space to be had. So why do we have to destroy a bunch of land and all its trees and such for another ugly ass building? Tax incentives and the like I'm sure are part of it.
Another thing is that sometimes I see where they're putting up a new minimall or little office building when pretty much right next door there's unoccupied space. Why do we need a new minimall when we haven't filled out the old one? There is seriously in Auburn Hills right off the main highway (exit 83 if you're ever on I-75 around metro Detroit) a little shopping plaza that has never to my knowledge had a single damned shop in it despite that it's been around for 10 years! So really that thing's been sitting there empty all that time. What a waste!
Then sometimes when I'm driving up on I-75 by Flint, I see an old Ramada motel that's been closed a couple years now. And I always think of all the homeless people in Flint, of which I'm sure there are many. Here we've got lots of people without homes and an empty place that could accommodate a couple hundred of them. And I'm sure that's not the only abandoned motel in Flint either. I'm sure there would be a lot of problems with turning those over to the homeless, but isn't it better than them freezing to death on the streets?
Anyway, it's all symptomatic of how wasteful we are as a society. I mean how many iPhone 4s do you suppose are just lying around now because the iPhone 5 came out like six months later and everyone just had to have that one? Think of all the resources to make one of those damned things. And then of course so many things like TVs, computers, and such have gotten to the point where it's just as cheap to buy a new one as to fix the old one. So even if the old one has a minor problem, we just chuck it in the trash and get a new one.
Just to be all gloom and doom here, at some point the bill is going to come due on this wastefulness. Someday we'll have cut down all the trees, mined all the gold, sucked up all the oil, and then we'll be well and truly fucked.
Speaking of blight and Detroit, last week Detroit got an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM). I don't support that because the EFM is essentially a Dictator from Roman times, someone brought in during a crisis to rule the city without really having to answer to the democratically elected bodies.
In this case they brought in a guy who helped turn Chrysler around in 2009, which had people psyched, but not me. What Republicans especially fail to grasp is that a city (or state or nation for that matter) is not a corporation. The strategies that work there do not work for a city because they're completely different animals.
I'm sure the Dictator's first acts will be more layoffs, more pay cuts, etc. That what "turnaround specialists" always do because labor is an easy cost to cut. Unfortunately as we've seen when you do that in a city all it does is degrade services further, so fewer people want to live in the city, so you have less tax revenue, so you need to make more cuts...in a downward spiral Detroit's already been in for many years. It's the same thing that's been happening to the post office too for many years as well.
And we've already seen this in Detroit! The schools have been run by a Dictator for something like five years now. They've closed schools and fired teachers...and things are still terrible. Why? Because, gee, who wants to put their kids in a school miles and miles away from their home that's overrun by gangs and where the kids are packed into classes of 50 or more?
It's just another disaster waiting to unfold because the tools that can "turnaround" a corporation aren't effective on cities. For one thing you can't just sell the city of Detroit to an Italian city as when Chrysler was sold off to Fiat. I'm pretty sure you can't just take all the failing assets in Detroit and put those into a separate city either to be disposed of. And of course you can't use the "turnaround specialist"'s ultimate weapon: firing everyone, locking the doors, and auctioning off the pieces.
Most days I think the only thing that can save a city like Detroit is a disaster that would just about level the place, like a massive earthquake ala "No Man's Land" in the Batman comics. Then the Federal government could come in with a bunch of cash to rebuild the city. Which is really what cities like Detroit need: an influx of cash to get more cops/fire trucks/ambulances on the streets, turn on the lights, and tear down the blight. Because only then can you make it the kind of place people would actually want to live in and thus increase your tax revenue.
Until then, no Dictator making six or seven figures will do more than make things worse.
This should put you in a good mindset for the Everyday Heroes Blogfest tomorrow!