Americans: Cut Detroit city workers some slack

July 25, 2013, 2:19 PM GMT+0

Americans widely oppose giving private lenders to Detroit priority over pensions and health benefits for city workers, but most also want Detroit to sell off art

Only July 18th Detroit filed for bankruptcy, becoming the largest ever municipality to default on its debt. Detroit has just under $20 billion in liabilities, The decision follows drawn out negotiations between the city's emergency manager Kevyn Orr and creditors, who opposed the proposed 'haircut' for creditors. Detroit has suffered from urban decline for decades, with its population of 1.8 million dropping to 700,000 today.

The case of Detroit's bankruptcy is shaping up to be one of the most significant legal battles in recent years. Michigan's state constitution and state law protects the full value of the pensions of public employees, but by applying for bankruptcy in federal courts the city is hoping that the federal government will overrule state laws and limit the burden of pension debts. Unions representing city employees say that this would be a major infringement of the rights of states to run their own affairs.

The latest YouGov research shows that the American public widely supports the city workers of Detroit. 43% think that pension and health benefits should be prioritized, while 26% think that they should be treated the same as private lenders. Only 16% want private lenders to get a better deal than the city workers.

There is a notable partisan divide on the issue of who should be prioritized in the bankruptcy proceedings. 51% of Democrats want the city workers to be prioritized, compared to 28% who want equal treatment and only 8% who want the prioritize private lenders. Among Republicans 30% are on the side of city workers, while 29% want private lenders to get priority. 24% want of Republicans want equal treatment.

When asked whether Detroit should begin to sell off artworks in order to pay off some of its debts, a majority of Americans think it should. Detroit currently has one of the more highly regarded art museums in the country, though local laws complicate moves to sell off art. 52% think the art should be sold, while 29% oppose selling the art to pay debts.