Detroit Needs a Tough Love Intervention

Last month I suggested that conservatives take it easy on the snark and reach out to Americans hurting in Obama’s economy. I’d call it “compassionate conservatism,” but explaining that it doesn’t mean what you think it means is like explaining the original definition of “liberal.” Its current usage is too steeped in the political culture. I prefer “tough love” conservatism. In his recent “Morning Jolt” email, Jim Geraghty of the National Review wrote, “Oh, we do care. But we care differently than the folks on the Left do. It’s a difference between the care of a daddy and the care of a sugar daddy. Whether a Democratic officeholder ever admits it or not, their love is transactional – you vote for me, I keep the government there to take care of you and spread the money around.”

Whether its citizens want to admit it, Detroit is begging for tough love conservatism. Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the newly appointed emergency city manager are pushing for the city to file for bankruptcy, releasing the city of its debts. Unfortunately, no one seems to have a plan for what happens after bankruptcy. This is a tremendous opportunity for Republicans in Michigan to take their eyes off the right-leaning suburbs and be Detroit’s heroes. Bankruptcy is a sugar daddy pushing a problem away, not a daddy practicing tough love and instilling discipline.

In the Obama economy, other cities may soon experience an accelerated decline and be in the same position as Detroit. Let’s be honest, there is no immediate electoral gain from Republicans saving Detroit. That’s why saving it is so diabolical! To many, those on the right lose their credibility when they talk about the effects of the Obama economy while being outraged that social programs like welfare, unemployment benefits and food stamps are on the rise. I’d be more concerned about spending rising on those programs when the economy is good. Instead, Republicans in Michigan should approach Detroit’s dilemma as an opportunity to take the worst product of liberal policies and rule and turn it into a conservative success story. Embrace the challenge.

Gov. Snyder should approach Detroit like a reality show that deals with dependency. Think Intervention. It’s relatively easy to temporarily stop bad behavior like overdosing, overeating and overspending in a controlled environment. The benefit of drug rehabilitation and 12 step programs is that they give people the tools to examine their actions, make amends, and have a spiritual awakening that encourages them to take a message of healing to others. Detroit needs a 12 step financial plan to end its dependency on failing liberal policies, make amends with taxpayers, and take their story of rehabilitation to other failing cities. Bankruptcy is a quick detox or crash diet. It does nothing to change long-term behavior. If Detriot doesn’t drastically change its dependency on failing liberal policies, it will find itself back in the same position in a few decades.

This is not a call for a bailout instead of bankruptcy. Rest assured my fellow cold-hearted conservatives, pain will be felt. It will not only serve as a reminder to Detroit leaders and residents, but to those in other cities facing similar financial problems.

It’s time to get creative and show the country that a Republican is ready to do the work necessary to save Detroit rather than wash his hands of it. Earlier this month, Townhall columnist Derek Hunter wrote about his hometown’s assets:

[T]he real dent Detroit can make in its debt problems lies on Woodward Avenue across the street from my alma mater, Wayne State University – The Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA is not only a beautiful building, it’s filled with priceless works of art owned, in many cases, by the city.

In times of trouble an asset is an asset. The economy of Detroit may have crashed, but the art market certainly has not. There are billions of dollars hanging on the walls of a museum that doesn’t get enough visitors to support itself or justify its continued existence.

If that sounds harsh, that’s because it is. You can throw the best party ever, but if no one shows up, what’s the point? Sure, occasional school groups from the region make the trip, but the building is generally uncrowded, to put it politely. Besides, the city is broke.

Closing the DIA and selling the art won’t wipe out all of Detroit’s debt, but it could take out a large chunk.

Gov. Snyder has an opportunity to lead by showing that Republicans can provide tough love and creative solutions instead of abandonment. It’s time for him to lead the first city-wide intervention to save Detroit from its dependency on sugar daddy Democrats.