Like Harrisburg before it, Detroit was brought to the brink of bankruptcy by bad government as well as bad breaks.
Kwame Kilpatrick, who could face decades in prison for running a criminal enterprise out of the mayor's office, is only the worst example of the sort of leadership that sped Detroit's plummet from Ford-fueled prosperity to last week's filing for the nation's largest ever municipal bankruptcy. A failure to adjust to dwindling resources ultimately left the city with such unbearable burdens as $3.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.
Cities that would avoid Detroit's fate should pay attention. While Philadelphia has enjoyed a downtown renaissance and a more diverse economy than the Motor City's, it has also struggled with some of the same problems. They include a reluctance to adjust its payroll, benefits, and budget to postindustrial realities, as evidenced by a pension fund that has less than half the assets needed to cover more than $9 billion in estimated liabilities.