The 'Next Great Pundit', Part II: What Detroit Needs

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on February 1, 2011

The Washington Post's Next Great Pundit puts a great deal of faith in the report he touts from the Kaufmann Foundation in his comparison of immigrant-rich Detroit (good) with immigrant-poor Cleveland (bad). Yet that report actually had this to say about Detroit:

Detroit is suffering. The City has endured rampant political corruption and teeters on the brink of insolvency. While the official unemployment rate hovers just shy of 30 percent (three times the national average), Mayor Dave Bing has pegged the real unemployment rate (including the underemployed and those who have simply given up looking for work) at "closer to 50 percent." Foreclosures are among the highest in the nation, as is vacancy and abandonment. The public schools are under the control of an emergency financial manager and current graduation rates suggest that something on the order of only one in four ninth grade students will complete high school four years later.[p.29]

The study itself, a wholly one-sided paean to the unalloyed virtues of immigrants and immigration, ends with this statement: "Metro Detroit is in crisis....Nothing can make a more powerful contribution to Detroit's rebirth than an affirmative immigrant-welcoming and global-connection building effort." [p. 125, emphasis mine] Nothing?

Leave aside momentarily the Next Great Pundit's earlier touting of immigrant-rich Detroit. Does anyone seriously think that more immigrants can cure Detroit's 30 percent (or 50 percent) unemployment rate?

Does any serious person really think that immigrant entrepreneurs, which are the group repeatedly touted by the Kauffman Foundation that sponsored the report on which the Next Great Pundit relies, can cure low high school graduation rates or cut Detroit's notorious felony crime rate (that one survey named the nation's most violent city in 2009), or stem the city's "rampant corruption"?

The fault here is not with immigrants, who are generally hard-working, law-abiding, and an important part of America's past and future.

But immigrants cannot legitimately be touted as the salvation for all America's pressing problems. They will not lower unemployment, raise high school graduation rates, rescue Social Security, revive our economy, lower our crime rate, or perform any of the other myriad civic and economic miracles that the Kauffman Foundation report attributes to them.

As to the debut entry of the Next Great Pundit, it is a disappointment. He repeats, parrot-like, liberal cliches about immigrants and immigration that are divorced from logic or close analysis, while exhorting us to take "the president's call to action on illegal immigration seriously," and of course legalize those already working here. After all, "Millions of Midwestern jobs are at stake."

The fact is that illegal immigrants are already working here and their work impact is already being felt. What of the average one million new legal immigrants this country now takes in every year? That is being done and still Cleveland and Detroit suffer. Should the government require that a certain percentage of new legal immigrants move to Detroit? Or perhaps we could make that a condition for legalization.

Here's an idea for the Next Great Pundit to consider: Perhaps instead of touting immigrant entrepreneurs, legal and illegal, as the solution to all of the Midwest's economic, political, and social ills, he could focus instead on how it might be possible to elect officials who are not corrupt, don't spend more revenue than they take in, don't borrow excessively to fund questionable programs and benefits, take steps as other cities have successfully done to target and reduce violent crime, and make schools accountable for results.

Just a suggestion.