How we make the call
Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:
|Who:||Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas|
|What:||Response to question about job creation in Detroit|
Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News cited Detroit’s decline as a manufacturing center, and asked Cruz, “What specifically would you do to bring manufacturing jobs back to America and train residents of cities like Detroit to do those jobs?”
Relevant statement from the debate:
“Let me start by observing that Detroit is a great city with a magnificent legacy that has been utterly decimated by 60 years of failed left-wing policies.
“You know, Henry Ford revolutionized automobile manufacturing and brought automobiles to the middle class. During World War II, Detroit provided — funded the arsenals of democracy to help us win World War II. In the 1960s, Detroit was the Silicon Valley of America. It had a population of 2 million people, had the highest per capita income in the country.
“And then, for 50 years, left-wing Democrats have pursued destructive tax policies, weak crime policies, and have driven the citizens out.
“This city now has just 700,000 citizens. There are vacant homes, one after the other after the other. Crime has been rampant, and it is an outrage. And let me say to folks in the media: That is a story that the media ought to be telling over and over again, the destruction of left-wing policies and the millions who have hurt because of it.”
Statements under review:
“...in the 1960s, Detroit was the Silicon Valley of America. It had a population of 2 million people, had the highest per capita income in the country.
“And then, for 50 years, left-wing Democrats have pursued destructive tax policies, weak crime policies, and have driven the citizens out.”
Cruz appears to identify the beginning of Detroit’s troubles around the time of the violence that shook Detroit in the summer of 1967, 49 years ago, and offers the well-worn narrative that the riot (or uprising, as many call it) under a Democratic mayor helped launch decades of destruction in the city.
While there is certainly evidence that a succession of mayors failed to make the hard budget decisions required in a shrinking city, and the corruption of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick remains a stain on Detroit, Cruz’s history dramatically oversimplifies the factors that contributed to Detroit’s loss of manufacturing jobs, population and tax base, trends that actually began more than a decade before the violence that rocked Detroit in 1967.
In “Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit,” the historian Thomas J. Sugrue traces Detroit’s downturn to conditions having little to do with the political party running the once-powerful city.
Detroit, like other northern industrial cities, saw job losses beginning in the 1950s as large companies automated production and moved plants to the suburbs, rural areas and to Southern states. Detroit, whose population peaked at 1.8 million in 1950 (not the 1960s), was overly reliant on manufacturing, and poorly positioned to diversify when those jobs began to vanish. And, as Sugrue noted, jobs were dwindling even as blacks continued to move north to industrial cities like Detroit, where the promise of a better life was often replaced by systemic racial discrimination. Whites, meanwhile, had already begun to flee Detroit in the 1950s as more African Americans arrived. The pace of white flight and the businesses that catered to them only accelerated following the riot, further decimating Detroit’s tax base.
The mayor at the dawn of Detroit’s economic decline in the 1950s: Albert E. Cobo, a Republican, who campaigned against the “Negro invasion” of white neighborhoods, and whose signature accomplishment was a blockbuster expressway project that eventually help ease the path of suburban flight.
Simply put, the population and economy in Detroit declined from a complex mix of factors, both local and national, involving Democrats and Republicans. The city, once home to 300,000 manufacturing jobs, is now down to 30,000.
The Call: Foul
Cruz oversimplified and misrepresented the myriad factors that produced Detroit’s slow-motion decline.