Detroit — Nearly half of the owners of Detroit’s 305,000 properties failed to pay their tax bills last year, exacerbating a punishing cycle of declining revenues and diminished services for a city in a financial crisis, according to a Detroit News analysis of government records.
The News reviewed more than 200,000 pages of tax documents and found that 47 percent of the city’s taxable parcels are delinquent on their 2011 bills. Some $246.5 million in taxes and fees went uncollected, about half of which was due Detroit and the rest to other entities, including Wayne County, Detroit Public Schools and the library.
Delinquency is so pervasive that 77 blocks had only one owner who paid taxes last year, The News found.
It’s hard to argue with this statement from one taxpayer. Why should they pay taxes to the city for services the city doesn’t provide?
Many of those who don’t pay question why they should in a city that struggles to light its streets or keep police on them.
“Why pay taxes?” asked Fred Phillips, who owes more than $2,600 on his home on an east-side block where five owners paid 2011 taxes. “Why should I send them taxes when they aren’t supplying services? It is sickening. … Every time I see the tax bill come, I think about the times we called and nobody came.”
Detroit was, at one time, the model for progressive politics. Detroit has a minimum wage – a “living wage” in the vernacular of the left – that is far above the federal minimum. The city has long spent far more on education, per pupil, than the national average. Detroit has long been dominated by labor, though these days the militant public worker and teacher unions are far more relevant than the declining private sector unions. Detroits taxes were based on exactly the sort of redistributionist agenda our friends on the left prefer.
Detroit, in the past, was always a high-tax, high-services sort of place. And where has that wrought? Detroit has become a blemish on the face of America. A national embarrassment. A punch line for people who don’t live there, and a nightmare for those who do.
The city ought to be a cautionary tale for the failure of big tax, big government policies. And yet, at the national level, we have President Obama pushing for a higher minimum wage. Pushing to give unions more power. Pushing for bigger government, bigger taxes and a redistributionist tax code.
Obama wants to make us Detroit, even as the nation can see what Detroit is really like.