Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two-Cent Tuesday: Haste n Waste

This is going to be a little bit of an old-school Grumpy Bulldog rant.  Be warned!

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!


  1. Isn't Detroit the city that has all the billionaires or millionaires or something like that who want to buy a really beautiful park that's surrounded by water (in a river or something like that) and erect a huge city where only the rich can live and not pay any tax because it will secede from the union? I heard something like that. An island in the middle of the U.S. that isn't part of the U.S. to be a tax haven for the wealthy. Detroit is full of rich assholes.

  2. I have no idea what that Michael guy is talking about. Detroit isn't "full" of anything, really...

    PT, if I had to look at that wasteland every day I am pretty sure I would have similar thoughts running through my head. I live a good two hours west of The D and have only been there a handful of times in my life and it always seems more like entering a war-torn third world country than a once booming beacon of industry.

    The E.M. thing creeps me out too. I don't agree with it for the very reasons you stated. Detroit is Gotham City. Where's Batman?

    As for the wastefulness, I am with you 100%. Our society has become one where everything is disposable. Things can be replaced cheaper than they can be repaired, and so on. My sewing machine recently needed fixing. Do you think there is even such a thing as a sewing machine repair person these days?

    Maybe it's the global economy? Maybe it's pure laziness. I'm not sure. What I do know is, we will eventually have to pay the piper.

  3. Interesting perspective on a major city that's been one of the biggest hit cities of the recession. Still, I'd say it's a little presumptuous to say we waste land. There's still more land than people, and more ocean than land. It's our narrow perspective on such things that bothers me, not to mention the myopic reactionary views on global warming. It's not what you say about how things are bad that makes a difference. Making a difference makes a difference.

    1. Thanks to melting ice caps there's going to be a lot more water than land in the future. Someone call Kevin Costner! I'll have you know though I don't waste any land.

  4. I kept thinking, 'why is he spelling minimal so weird?' but then I got it. Yes, I'm brilliant that way. And I think they should bring in the world champion Sim City player to be the emergency guru. They'd probably have better success.

  5. What I really don't understand about the Detroit situation is that there really is a lot of cheap land and facilities to be had there, right now. You'd think that some business or corporation would want to take advantage of that and move in. But, then, with manufacturing mostly being outsourced to China, maybe that makes less worthwhile.

  6. Oh, I like the new layout. The green is very nice.

  7. On a smaller scale, I see the same thing here in Phoenix. A huge office building lies empty while construction of new office buildings goes on, unabated. Walmart moved out to build a new Walmart a few miles away. The old building lay empty for years. It makes me sick, too.



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