Thursday, September 20, 2012

Detroit is a Seoul Subway Beggar

I was walking from the subway station to my office and on the stairs between the two (my office's underground entrance is in a mall connected to the subway station) there was a beggar. This is not unusual for any city, and I must say that there are fewer beggars in Seoul than in New York if I remember right from my one visit there. What struck me was the receptacle he was using for money. It was a Detroit Tigers hat.
For those of you who don't know, I'm from the Detroit area. I have watched an entire state suffer because of the Big 3 (Chrysler, GM, Ford) crashes a few years back. The depressing economy was one of the reasons I came to Korea; I had no job prospects after graduation. 

Detroit itself is like a beggar: it's a shadow of its former self, forlorn and pitiable. People like to pretend it's not there and nobody wants to take responsibility for its bad fortune. A few passers-by give some help out of the kindness of their hearts, but nobody expects that it will ever make anything of itself. Some blame it for its dreary state. Some blame the passage of time and the onset of innovation; the export of manual labor to other countries and the sharing of company secrets with China. Some blame society. Some blame Obama, because they just like blaming Obama for everything. Everyone blames someone for the demise of what was once a great city, but nobody helps Detroit back to its feet.

I'm sure Detroit would be willing to work hard and be reliable if given the chance, despite its bad reputation. It may look dilapidated and unskilled, but loyalty and work ethic are not to be discounted. Detroit is trying many different things to get back on its feet but there just aren't opportunities out there that fit its unique skill set and nobody wants to invest in it.

I have walked by that beggar three times and have pretended not to see him and his Detroit Tigers hat. Does that make me a bad person? 


  1. Michigan isn't doing too poorly in recent years - it's actually had markedly above average economic growth. Over 2011, real gross state product for Michigan grew 2.26%, compared to U.S. real GDP growth rate of 1.47% (Bureau of Economic Analysis):

    On the note of automakers - many U.S. automotive assembly facilities are operating on three shifts, or will be by the end of the year - that's above "full capacity." The overall capacity utilization rate of the U.S. light vehicle sector was at 80.16% in the second quarter (Federal Reserve).

    Of course, relatively higher growth doesn't mean the end of high unemployment, or that average incomes are growing. I've yet to see, or compute, a national economic forecast that shows unemployment back under 6% until the mid 2020s - even those which rely upon immensely optimistic assumptions only show unemployment at that level in the early 2020s.

    Since I don't want to leave some treatise in your comments, I'll just drop a link here, and kindly shut up.

    - Michael
    AKA: One of your many friends from undergrad at MSU

    1. Wow you really did your research on this one! I do admit that I haven't been in MI much over the last 3 years or so, so I can't say much about the current condition of the economy.

  2. Well, not really. While you've been in Korea, I've begun and completed a graduate degree in econ, and been working for a research group which focuses on the U.S. auto industry. Those statistics are things I wind up having go over at least once per month, and the NPR story was something I'd had open the previous day anywho.

    The state's been doing better... but these charts should say a lot.

  3. There are beggars everywhere. I must agree with you. It is one of the sad realities. No matter how rich the country is there are still beggars.