President Obama should stress the necessity of shared sacrifice, and push the state of Michigan to take on more of the city’s fiscal responsibilities, perhaps by offering it more federal aid. Once all the parties come to an agreement, the federal government could also help with the tasks of downsizing and of rebuilding roads and schools, and taking other measures to attract businesses and families. Congressional Republicans will almost certainly refuse to coöperate, in which case the Administration could pursue means to use existing budget sources, the way it—and the Bush Administration—used TARP funds to finance the auto bailout.
Last week, the President, in laying out his economic agenda, talked about the need to repair the country’s infrastructure. Where better to start than in Detroit? By the standards of the banking and auto bailouts, the sums involved are small: the banks received seven hundred billion dollars; the auto companies eighty billion. Already, there are hopeful signs. The auto industry has turned a profit and repaid much of the federal monies. And hipsters and artisans aren’t the only ones moving in: firms such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield; Quicken Loans, an online-mortgage lender; GalaxE.Solutions, a tech firm; and the insurance company Title Source have also recently arrived. Americans of all ages are increasingly eager to live in urban environments: a smaller, rebuilt Detroit could eventually thrive. “I speak of new cities and new people,” Obama said last week, quoting Carl Sandburg. Here’s an opportunity to turn words into deeds.