Did Rush Limbaugh Really Just Blame Detroit’s Bankruptcy on Black People?

Written by Igor Volsky and Alan Pyke

Economists are attributing Detroit’s recent bankruptcy filing to problems facing the entire Rust Belt region: a shrinking tax base, high health and pension costs, sprawl, and general dysfunction. But on Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh added another cause to the long list of factors that have contributed to the city’s downfall: black people.

During an appearance on Fox News’ On The Record with Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday, Limbaugh claimed that “unchecked” Democratic rule “since the last Republican mayor [in] 1957″ created a lazy and bloated culture of out-of-control spending and corruption.

“You’ve had that — that town has been a petri dish of everything the Democrat Party stands for, everything the Democrat Party loves — massive unions, massive pensions, pay people pensions and health care long after they’ve stopped working,” he said, before arguing that the city’s first black mayor exacerbated the city’s spending and sparked racial riots that chased white people into the suburbs:

LIMBAUGH: You have massive welfare states where citizens are given things left and right in order to buy their votes. You have no opposition whatsoever.

And in the case of the — you throw race into the mix and you bring on Mayor Coleman Young who causes riots in 1967 in Detroit and Mayor Young caused a white flight to suburbia, and Detroit is left with nothing but liberal Democrats running it. It is what it is. And you — any place in this country that has similar circumstances, the same fate is going to happen to them.

First, Coleman Young, who Limbaugh claims caused the riots, wasn’t elected to the mayor’s office until six years after violence broke out, in 1973. The New York Times noted in his obituary that by that point, “Detroit had already been reeling from high unemployment in the automobile industry, a high crime rate and deteriorating housing.” Young also wasn’t a proponent of the kind of welfare policies and “massive pensions,” that Limbaugh attributes to Democrats. In the 1970s and early 1980s, he was actually credited with keeping Detroit financially afloat “by persuading city workers to accept cuts in salaries and fringe benefits and voters to approve a $96 million increase in income taxes.” In the late 1990s, the city, still under Democratic rule, even experienced a small revitalization. Household incomes rose, child poverty dropped “by a stunning 13 percentage points,” and homeownership grew.

As for the 1967 riots, they occurred in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, when African Americans across the country were, as a study commissioned by President Lyndon Johnson put it, systematically excluded from the benefits of economic progress and faced “Pervasive discrimination and segregation in employment, education and housing.” The report, which focused on the causes of the violence, found that “white racism,” not Coleman Young, “is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II.”

The riots of the late 1960s set off “a chain reaction in neighboring communities.” The violence first started in Newark, New Jersey, in July of 1967 and later spread to Detroit. “What the rioters appeared to be seeking was fuller participation in the social order and the material benefits enjoyed by the majority of American citizens,” the 1967 National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders concluded. “Rather than rejecting the American system, they were anxious to obtain a place for themselves in it.”

Limbaugh is right that white people did leave Detroit in large numbers in the aftermath of the 1967 violence, but that exodus followed a trend of whites abandoning cities as black people moved in and a slowdown in the auto industry. Before the riots, the vast majority of white population growth was already occurring “in suburban portions of metropolitan areas” and white population within the city of Detroit had declined by 1.3 million between 1960 and 1967.

This post was originally published at ThinkProgress.

Photo Credit: Screen capture from Fox News On the Record


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Peggy Ausmus
Peggy A4 years ago


Amy Liebetreu
Amy L4 years ago

Limbaugh is an angry bloated drug addict who will say ANYTHING to get ratings. Don't try to understand him just ignore him - he's always been a mean-spirited hater. It's all for ratings.

Cletus W.
Cletus W.4 years ago

Hey there Paul B. Good day to ya, little darlin'.

Just one correction for you this time: the reason you no longer engage in any "discussion" with me is because you have already repeatedly got your little rightwing ass intellectually "kicked" on any number of subjects where all you bring to the table is parroted rightwing talking points.

But if you want to play the victim, be my guest. I'm sure you would have had substantial and cogent answers for all the points I've made to you, if only I hadn't gone and hurt your feelings by labeling you a rightwing troll......**NOT!**

I'm not quite sure how I would be giving "liberalism" a bad name, since I'm more of a conservative in "things in heaven and earth, [Beavis], than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

B Lewenza
B Lewenza4 years ago

No you didn't!!!!!!! What a careless thing to say, even though you are entitled to you're opinion I really don't think that this was called for. But because of your arrogance I'm sure that you don't care for mine either, which by the way is fine with me. Personally I think you economists are to blame for what is happening to Detroit. You spew your BS that there is no inflation,we are not in a recession, the economy is fine, keep spewing cause people quit listening to you guys 4 years ago.

Robert H.
Robert Hamm4 years ago

Paul, guesss what??? WE dodnt care if you engage.

Paul B.
Paul B4 years ago

Cletus, what's up!!! I figured you would chime in at some point with another of your childish rants. For all your fancy "speak"... you don't say much of anything worthwhile.

Whatever?!?!? As such I refuse to engage in any "discussion" until you learn to abandon all the ad hominem attacks.

It's people like YOU that give liberalism/progressives a bad name. Intolerance, ignorance and sophomoric vitriol aren't qualities many admire.

Bill and Katie D.
Katie & Bill D4 years ago

No comment after reading all this crap of comments!
Thank You

David B.
David B4 years ago

sadly I see this as a well accepted republican statement.and maybe it is so,cause didn't the "people" give them the "house" there by freezing the government into total inability to function in any way,manner,shape or fourm?

James Maynard
James Maynard4 years ago

Still can't believe any one actually pays this
fool to be on the air spouting his inanities.