Bankruptcy

As if Detroit hadn’t endured enough pain last night with Justin Tucker’s outrageous last-minute 61-yard field goal kick to give the Baltimore Ravens the win on "Monday Night Football," today comes more evidence that the city is getting taken to the cleaners in its bankruptcy proceedings.

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On Tuesday, the New York Times came out with an exposé on the outlandish fees Detroit is paying lawyers and consultants to guide it through the biggest municipal bankruptcy in United States history. According to the Times, the city has already shelled out more than $19 million for these firms’ advice, and contract amounts could cost as much as $60.6 million.

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When rumors that the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) might sell its treasured paintings to balance the city’s ledgers first surfaced in May, I wrote a defense of the museum on cultural grounds.

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As if the news that a major American city is headed into bankruptcy isn’t bad enough, we now also must contend with an inevitable byproduct: inane, ungrounded commentary on Detroit’s decline. I make no claims to be the world’s greatest expert on the city, but I’ve done enough reporting in and about Detroit to have a rough sense of what people are getting wildly wrong.

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Detroit was once the nation’s fourth most-populous city. Today, it became the largest American city to file for bankruptcy. The Motor City has been in decline for decades; its population peaked at 1.8 million in 1950 and declined to just 700,000 people in the last Census. Predictably, its economy faltered—especially over the last decade. The unemployment rate is over 18 percent; fewer than half of adult residents are employed.

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Tokyo, Japan—Back in 1976, I worked as an English teacher in Sendai, the large city closest to the epicenter of Friday’s horrendous earthquake. Once a week I would go to the campus of Tohoku University—the city’s pre-eminent university—for an afternoon of “English discussion” with a group of professors and grad students. Their research involved the effects of earthquakes on buildings.

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Marcia Angell, M.D., is one of the nation's most well-respected experts on health care issues. And with good reason. A board-certified pathologist who also trained in internal medicine, she's a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School. Her writing credits include The Truth About Drug Companies and an award-winning article at TNR on the same subject.

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“We are turning to socialism and away from God!” Joseph Grab said as he stood amid the thousands who gathered on Capitol Hill today to attend Michele Bachmann’s “House Call” protest against the health care reform bill. Grab, a retired engineer from Hershey, Pennsylvania, was clutching a leather-bound King James in his hand and a green sign that simply said “Pray” in the other.

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Two years ago, I wrote about my long-standing problems with Comcast’s broadband and television service. The intermittent outages, the frequent slowdowns, the unavailable phone support, and the incompetent repair people, to whom Comcast had outsourced its service to customers. So why did I stick with Comcast? Well, the people Verizon sent over couldn’t figure out how to connect the FIOS line from the garage across the house to the cable television and computer. In addition, Comcast not only promised to be good but made me one of those $99 a month offers for phone, internet, and TV that I couldn

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David Wessel has a column in today’s Wall Street Journal laying out three approaches to solving our Too Big Too Fail (TBTF) problem. The first two amount to different ways of “busting them up,” as Wessel puts it.

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