Government dependency is hard to kick
Well-said, Lisa. Tough love is just what Detroit needs. But that tough love is very difficult to give. Government dependency is one of the hardest of all addictions to break... because the dependents believe they have a moral right to what they are given, and they're willing to swallow gallons of despairing rhetoric about how even the most parlous State handout is better than the cruel death awaiting them on the cold tundra of responsibility.
I would modify Geraghty's formulation about daddies vs. sugar daddies a bit: it's not so much that the growing Dependency Class has a transactional relationship with the Ruling Class, using votes to purchase gifts of confiscated money. Most people in the Dependency Class don't see it that way, outside of the crony corporate-welfare types. Instead, the Dependency Class thinks the Ruling Class is enforcing their rightful claim on benefits they are entitled to. This sense of entitlement is so strong that Dependency Class voters simply are not interested in what happens to anyone else, anywhere in the country.
I had an illuminating and depressing conversation with a friend who is one of the few people I've encountered that actually likes ObamaCare, because of the coverage guarantees for pre-existing conditions. He didn't care that everyone else in the conversation was paying more for their insurance, in some cases a lot more. He didn't care about the drain on the Treasury, the offenses to liberty, the jobs that have been lost, the people who are losing their plans. He got his benefits, so who cares about anyone else?
And this is not a mean-spirited or selfish person - he's a great guy. He literally waved off everyone else's problems because his were serious, and he thinks he's entitled to a solution. Whether there were other, better ways to get him that solution is an academic discussion to him, because we're saddled with ObamaCare now. One of the worst things about this disastrous program is the way it foreclosed real reforms, real solutions that would have helped cure health-insurance dysfunctions without all the nasty Big Government side effects. (The punch line is that the ObamaCare policy my friend ended up with has a gigantic deductible, which is becoming a huge running problem with these Affordable Care Act policies, so we're talking about a "benefit" that amounts to largely illusory peace of mind. And while it won't make a difference to anyone wholly focused on their own benefits, the overall number of uninsured Americans isn't changing all that much under ObamaCare - it's just reshuffling the deck and changing the demographic composition of the uninsured, at fantastic public expense.)
So the people who rebel against that "tough love" are going to see themselves not as greedy dependents, but as righteous crusaders fighting to keep reformers from stealing the benefits they "own." Meanwhile, the people who actually earn money are said to have no morally defensible claim to it - all resistance to increased taxes, including the delayed taxation of massive public debt loads, is portrayed as "greed," which means the people who earned the money are not its rightful owners. I wonder if small-government types shouldn't spend more time pointing out the waste and corruption of boondoggles like the infamous Detroit art collection. Phase One of tough love could consist of showing the Dependency Class how the corrupt mandarins of the Ruling Class are the ones stealing bread from their tables to line their pockets.
Update: ... for example, the Detroit municipal pension fund was tossing around bonuses, supplements, and even pensions the recipients were not technically entitled to, thanks to the remarkable generosity the union-backed trustees of the pension boards displayed with other peoples' money.
One auditor described these constant pension-fund raids as being "like dandelions... you just accept them. They were there, something you've seen all your life." That's some top-notch "auditing" right there.
Without the ironclad fiscal discipline of spending caps, tax caps, and a balanced budget requirement, no trade-offs or sacrifices are necessary when politicians loot the treasury. New spending plans don't require cuts to old spending plans. Corruption grinds on for decades, because it imposes no cost upon the loyal Dependency Class - they are told the only thing that will ever interrupt the flow of their benefit checks is small-government reform. Waste and fraud don't cost them a nickel, so they don't care about it. And in this case, the beneficiaries of the excess pension money doubtless saw it as cash they were morally entitled to, a bit of much-needed extra money that made for a wonderful Christmas.
Money was spent like tomorrow would never come... and now that tomorrow is here, nobody in Detroit knows what to do. You'll see the same thing in other states, and then Washington D.C., soon enough.