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Detroit is in dire straits these days, and the Motor City could give us a hint as to where America is headed.

Faced with limited resources, a $155 million deficit and a declining population, that city’s mayor, Dave Bing, is implementing what he calls the Detroit Works Project. Under the plan, more populated neighborhoods with a better chance of making it will receive more city services than those overrun by abandoned homes. Fire, police and emergency medical services will remain the same throughout the city, and plans to contract the city, depopulate empty areas and relocate people to concentrated areas have been abandoned. Meanwhile, the city will focus on demolishing crumbling, vacant buildings, and improving vacant lots and recreational areas.

Despite the name of this new project, Detroit isn’t working, and neither is America. Is this what the U.S. is destined to become, absent some badly needed injection of compassion? And are we ready, and why has it come to this?

After hearing about the Detroit Works Project, my initial reaction was that it represented, at best, municipal triage. You can’t save everyone in the city, so you prioritize, as the theory goes. At its worst, it smacks of Social Darwinism, survival of the fittest. But you really can’t blame hungry and hurting places like Detroit — out of cash, options and luck — for making tough choices.

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