Charlie LeDuff’s raw and hard hitting book, “Detroit – An American Autopsy” (287 pages) describes the underbelly of a city that was once powerful and wealthy, but now battles Baltimore for the highest murder rate of any American city and has over 200 unclaimed bodies in the city morgue. It has areas that are vast wastelands of empty factories and burned out houses. Firefighters, police officers and EMTs have broken down equipment, and parents have been asked to send their kids to school with toilet paper because of inadequate funding. City coffers have been looted by corrupt politicians and gangs have intimidated witnesses who can identify murderers. Hopelessness and crime go hand in hand.
The automobile companies had gotten lazy and the good times slipped away quickly when the crash hit. When Obama sent in a team to review the financial affairs of the industry they were shocked by what they found. After looking at General Motors , for example, the team “encountered …..perhaps the weakest financial operation any of us had ever seen in a major corporation.” The end result is the dismissal of the poorest among those left behind, who are trapped and can’t get out because they have no ability to do so. Since 2000 over a quarter of a million people have left, leaving the population at only 700,000. LeDuff was a reporter for the Detroit News and reported what he saw and even helped uncover corruption. At times it seemed he was the only one who cared. The unspoken message is that if this situation can develop in Detroit, it can happen anywhere.
If Detroit is to be turned around, corruption has to be stopped in its tracks and elected officials have to be held accountable. A sense of morality, fairness and human dignity need to be restored. LeDuff summed it all up when he said, “If we are going to fix it, we are going to have to stand up and say ‘enough’ and then get on with the difficult work of cleaning it up.” This book is an eye–opener for those who live in the bubble and don’t have any idea what has happened, or what can happen, to America.