The fact is, long after Detroit’s decline had become obvious, the city’s government kept borrowing and lenders kept lending.
Some of the municipal debt against the future was hidden in the city’s own books in the form of off-balance-sheet pension responsibilities. Other borrowing was obvious to everyone, in the form of bonds secured — at least notionally — by Detroit’s future tax revenue.
The whole house of cards teetered on a fiction that the city would return to its former prosperity. But somewhere between 1960, when Detroit had the highest income per person in the United States, and now, the city fell into a vicious circle of decline.
As good jobs left, so did educated people. Nearly half the population is now functionally illiterate. And while loans and liabilities were accumulated when the city had nearly 2 million people, now 700,000 bear all the responsibility for its debts.
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