Detroit: Democrats to battle Trump over economy, jobs in Michigan's once-bankrupt largest city

Democrats hoping to secure their party’s nomination in 2020 are headed to Detroit to debate one another on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings – six years after the city filed for the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy ever.

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In July of 2013, when the city filed for bankruptcy, it was bogged down with more than $18 billion worth of debt.

Detroit emerged from bankruptcy in 2014 and is now largely believed to be on an upward economic trajectory.

It has been issuing bonds back by its own credit since last year. In April 2018, the city had produced three straight fiscal years’ worth of balanced budgets, allowing it to terminate post-bankruptcy oversight of its finances.

The city is once again experiencing hiring gains, personal income is higher and the unemployment rate hit 4.3 percent in May – however, its poverty level (14.2 percent) is higher than the national average and it still has a relatively low level of residents with college degrees.

It is also one of the U.S. cities combating the most violent crimes.

The median income is just above $35,000 – far less than the national average.

From its peak in 2000, Detroit has lost about 1 million manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing now accounts for about one-fifth of the state’s jobs, down from 50 percent in the 1960s.

The promise of a manufacturing revival is part of what helped President Trump take the state in 2016. He won the state by just about 10,700 votes – the first Republican to take the state since 1988.

The state is perceived as a key state for Trump to hold in 2020 in order to be reelected to a second term.

Under Trump, the U.S. added about 465,200 factory jobs in 2017 and 2018 – which is the largest volume of new manufacturing jobs created over a two-year period since before the recovery, according to data from the Economic Innovation Group.

By region, the manufacturing expansion was felt across all regions, but southern states created the largest number of new manufacturing jobs over the past two years.

On the other hand, critics have argued that his tariff policies have actually harmed American manufacturers – including those in the auto and agriculture industries.


Meanwhile, many 2020 Democrats have adopted pro-worker positions – with contenders like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders positioning Trump and his administration as perhaps too cozy with special interests and corporate America at the expense of workers. Both candidates have also taken up pro-union stances.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.