The New York Times Magazine ran a breathless story on the “rebirth” of Detroit. In part, the story was told through the eyes of Dan Gilbert, the CEO of mortgage machine Quicken Loans. Memorable quote:
One of Gilbert’s new downtown properties is an iconic Kahn creation from 1959 called Chase Tower, previously the National Bank of Detroit Building, which spans a full city block. Now nicknamed the Qube, the building houses hundreds of Quicken loan officers who sit or stand at small desks, working their phones. Employees are encouraged to write on the walls, which also display the latest tallied results in competitions between internal sales teams. Stenciled on the walls as well are the Quicken credos, 19 bits of pithy wisdom the company calls its “Isms.” (“The inches we need are everywhere around us.” “Numbers and money follow; they do not lead.”) Above the workers hover decorative, spacecraft-like orbs, in peach and pink and aquamarine, matching the colors of the cabinetry and carpeting. The overall atmosphere resembles “The Wolf of Wall Street” as art-directed by Dr. Seuss.
I can’t help but think that the Times, yet again, missed the point.
Detroit, once the beating heart of American industrial supremacy, is now reduced to flogging mortgages at overextended American consumers.
If that’s not a metaphor for the decline of the U.S. as an economic power, and the fall of the blue-collar middle class, I’m not sure what is.