The PT Cruiser that saved Detroit

The NYT has come to focus on the Pittsburgh story and the story of economic restructuring here with a contrast to what is happening up in Detroit. See: For Pittsburgh, There’s Life After Steel .

It's still pretty amazing to see what the folks in Detroit are looking at in the near term. We were once at the same level of denial they are at today. Take what the Detroit News printed as a letter to the editor earlier in the week. Major papers go to an effort to verify the letters they choose to publish..... or at least they used to. I will take it for granted that a letter in the Detroit News earlier in the week was sincere and legitimate, hard as that is to believe. A reader from California (a Detroit diasporan possibly?) wrote:

"...Although I live several thousand miles away, I wanted to let the people of Detroit and Michigan know you are not alone and that you are in my hopes and prayers. Every time I get into my PT Cruiser, I say a thank you to the people who designed and made such a fun and functional car. "
I really must be missing something? Mona Mondieu might would have more productive suggestions for the big three.

Just on the topic of letters to the editor. The Cleveland Plain Dealer had one yesterday titled: Will Cleveland ever beat Pittsburgh? with this quote:

"First, The Plain Dealer prints articles outlining the dynamic turnaround in the economy of Pittsburgh. Then the Browns lose their eighth straight game to the Steelers, and Bill Cowher puts a stop to any talk of his returning to Cleveland to coach the Browns (he was the town's top choice). And finally, the purchase of National City Bank by PNC Financial Services is completed."
It's not limited to football and banking. The letter does not mention Howard Hanna's recent purchase of Smythe, Cramer Co, one of Ohio's oldest and largest real estate firms. The first online comment there points out how Iggle-creep is encroaching on Cleveland as well. It all raises an almost metaphysical question. Even if your mailing address is Shaker Heights, if you shop at Giant Eagle, bank at PNC, and (assuming it's a playoff weekend) are watching the Steelers on TV... are you not living in Pittsburgh? Beyond all of that, what is remarkable is how fast Cleveland has acquired uniquely Pittsburgh levels of pessimism and self-doubt.


3 Responses to "The PT Cruiser that saved Detroit"

Jefferson Provost said... 1/08/2009 10:51 AM

Are you sure it was the Detroit News and not The Onion?

Anonymous said... 1/09/2009 9:05 AM

Pittsburgh’s economic transition is being profiled as a model for others to emulate? Is it comforting to know that after a couple of decades of high rates of unemployment, suicide, domestic violence, downsized careers, and out-migration, a legacy-driven economy will emerge that freezes demographics, class structures, and musical tastes at the point of collapse? I could imagine Detroit civic leaders in 2030, watching a Tigers game in their fourth new stadium of the past 20 years, congratulating themselves on the fact that a “no growth” economy can also be “no loss”. I mean, “Is the glass half full, or half empty?”

In the Pacific Northwest, after the economic collapse of the timber industry (facilitated in part by the Spotted Owl protections) municipalities were provided with federal financial support to make up for the lost taxes. The cash transfers continued for quite a while, helping to ease the transition. I can’t help wondering, “what if municipalities in Western Pennsylvania had received that kind of blow-softening support in the eighties?” If the right incentives had been tied to the funds, they could have facilitated municipal consolidations and public investments that may have helped avoid such present day urban failures as Homewood or Braddock.

What’s scary is that there are so few alternatives to illustrate Rust Belt or Upper Appalachian revitalization.

JMM said... 1/10/2009 2:14 PM

Terrell Pryor went to Ohio State. But that's temporaty too....

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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