Detroit Continues To Maintain Horseshoer Despite The Absence of Horses

Detroit has long been viewed as an example of a catastrophic failure of a city with soaring crime, unemployment, and the continued reelection of corrupt or abusive politicians (here and here and here and here).  Unable to pay bills, the city has left whole areas without street lighting and even proposed allowing buildings to burn rather than spend the money on fire fighters.  However, the Detroit horseshoer remains fully employed . . . even if the city does not have a single horse to shoe.


It turns out that the water and sewerage department for the city of Detroit employs a horseshoer. Efforts to fire the horseshoer have run into problems with the local union president said it is “not possible” to eliminate positions under union rules.

The job is defined as requiring a person “to shoe horses and to do general blacksmith work … and to perform related work as required.” The article below says that the description was last updated in 1967.

A recent study found that the DWSD was bloated and required about twice the number of people to do the work to produce water than Chicago when measured in per gallon production. The study recommended that the department be reduced by a massive 80 percent. However, John Riehl, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 207, insists that the department needs more not fewer employees.

By the way, the horseshoer position pays $29,245 in salary and about $27,000 in benefits.

Source: Michigan Capitol

45 thoughts on “Detroit Continues To Maintain Horseshoer Despite The Absence of Horses

  1. Horse blacksmiths do quite well in Sweden, but not on city salaries. “Fine dining” folks have horses, who need shoes.

    However, this teaches me:

    1. Why unions ared despised, most especially public employee ones.
    2. Why Americans hate bureaucracy.

  2. Si triste quand Royaumes mourir
    viennent les orcs pour faire pleurer les veuves
    ———————————————————————–
    King Richard:A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!

    Catesby:Withdraw, my lord; I’ll help you to a horse.

    King Richard:Slave! I have set my life upon a cast,
    And I will stand the hazard of the die.

  3. Really, Bron. You need to get a new catchphrase. First, Detroit is a city, not a state and second they’re are not built on any kind of socialist model. Detroit’s problem is the same problem it has had for the last 100 years: corruption. Now it is corruption compounded by mismanagement. But socialism doesn’t figure in to it. Corporatist fascism might be a reasonable argument, but socialism simply isn’t going to fly. Feel free to try though. You know how I do enjoy watching exercises in futility.

  4. I had a long conversation with a farrier just a few days ago. He said business was really slow, since the economy was in the tank. Horse ownership is down because owning a horse is a luxury for many people and they are getting rid of their horses. He was looking for other work.

  5. In the very early 60s in my little 4 block world of all life, there was a blacksmith shop. My father took my brother and I there. The blacksmith did shoe a horse once when I was there.
    In this 4 block area there were 2 corner stores, 2 gas stations 2 pharmacies, 2 bars, 2 diners, 1 “super market” 1 hardware store, 1 butcher shop, and a dentist office.*
    Each of these businesses were privately owned,. My father owned one of the pharmacies. I have not thought of this in a long time.
    Today there are chain stores everywhere. The business man of 50 years ago was part of the neighborhood. Knew the people and commonly lived nearby.
    I have a hard time thinking of this neighborhood as a standard of capitalism as expressed by Romney and his peers. This model seemed to work very well for us then.
    Profit was important (I’m sure) but I seem to remember that people were important too, We were a community. :o) The nickname of this section was known as swillburg.
    The pig farms were long gone before my arrival.
    * Also a soda fountain, a hobby shop, a sporting goods store. Small small businesses all. It seemed to work quite well.

  6. You’ll love this….. They just passed a millage….. Aka tax to support the Detroit Institute of Art…… Yes…. Tax dollars at work….. The funny thing is three counties approved it…… Wayne, Oakland and Macomb…… I kid you not….. The city is being run by the state, the school system is under emergency management…… Because they don’t have tax dollars to support them….. Yet… The DIA. Gets a whole new source of tax funding…..

  7. OT OT OT

    Goibg from local to national expressed at a local level:

    Everybody (?) keeps an eye on their local scene. I do so mine in NC.

    The newspaper exposes the “corrupt your educational institute” movement in our state.
    Seems BB&T are paying out grants sponsoring studies in
    the “BB&T Center for the Study of Free Markets and Institutions, at my alma mater. Since it was only for USD 2 million it is cheap. It then mentions that several other institutions have had similar offers. If it is just NC is not clear. But BB&T has no anchoring there that I know. Just mentioned as an example of turning education into ideological indoctrination.

    Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/08/21/2281460/rand-on-campus.html#storylink=cpy

  8. The University of Florida employs at least one master farrier and, to my knowledge, they have no horses. However, the farrier is employed (possibly only part time) by the Large Animal Vet School and teaches students about the equine foot and counsels the public on proper foot care. He also consults with local commercial farriers on thorny problems.

    It helps also to know that there are two large areas of Florida (specifically parts of Palm Beach and most of Marion Counties) which are home to thousands of horses of all breeds and skills. So farriering is pretty big business (and pays well).

  9. So farriering is pretty big business (and pays well).~ Kairho
    ———————————
    Farrier work is back breaking and dangerous. Been there, seen &tried that….it was fun for a day but …. I’m all for the guy….when you take on a position like that, you give up every other avenue to compete in the workforce. While working for this city he had to give up building up his own client-list. It is the new way in this days world the ‘Corporate’ money-set mentality has shaved everyone and everything to the bone for their ridiculously self-serving profit at all costs agenda (the all costs being payed for by anyone else but them….). The rules and regs that are imposed on ANY worker today are impossible and self-defeating. Thanks Washington, for the Corporate blow-job. (oh hell can I phucking say that????!!!!!!)

  10. Woosty,

    Thanks for a reality contribution.

    And you sure can for me. Several already have if I remember right. Some prominent ones too. No names. let them speak for themselves.

    However I don’t dare use the popular name for cunnilingus.

  11. David Blauw,

    I was once called down for my (then) often use of self-referential comments.
    Yours was delightful, entertaining, made its point and thus was useful in that way.

    So it glads me greatly to see you and many others posting self-referentially. Even the complainer does.

  12. As another commenter mentioned, I would be curious to see what other duties he performed, perhaps this is worthwhile but the title is outdated.

    Nevertheless if there was truly no need for his postion, how about a like-kind transfer to another section of the city with the same pay and benefits. Maybe the union would still object but for why? They still receive their dues payments.

  13. As has been suggested, he may have other work. It may well be possble that department still has to repair old systems that have special iron “parts” that would have to be fabricated. I had a friend who did this for a railroad not long ago. Also, let us not use Limbaugh Gambit #345, take one extreme example and apply it to the whole. the attack on unions has done much to decrease their effectiveness in maintaining a reasonable standard of living for we non-romneys.

  14. A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!

    [Heckler in balcony] Will a jackass do?

    Actor: Yessir, come right down!

  15. The story may be accurate as presented but I’d be a bit reluctant to assume this report is the full story on the matter. As written, it makes for a great platform for union bashing. It is curious that the journalist who wrote the article didn’t interview the employee who is the subject of the piece. Furthermore, it is curious that the quote of Mr. Riehl seems to be about total staffing rather than the horseshoer position. I’ll defer judgement until a skeptical journalist researches and reports on the issue.

  16. I suggest following the link to the source: Michigan Capitol. It is really Michigan Capitol Confidential. Read the other material on the link and take note of the featured cartoon. Breathe deeply and see if you start to smell the aroma of something fishy… … …

  17. Gene H:

    “But socialism doesn’t figure in to it. Corporatist fascism might be a reasonable argument, but socialism simply isn’t going to fly. Feel free to try though. You know how I do enjoy watching exercises in futility.”

    It wasnt that hard and it wasnt futile. Seems someone disagrees with your assessment that is was corporate greed.

    “Mayor Cavanagh was the only elected official to serve on Johnson’s task force. And Detroit received widespread acclaim for its leadership in the program, which attempted to turn a nine-square-mile section of the city (with 134,000 inhabitants) into a “model city.” More than $400 million was spent trying to turn inner cities into shining new monuments to government planning. In short, the feds and Democratic city mayors were soon telling people where to live, what to build, and what businesses to open or close. In return, the people received cash, training, education, and health care.

    The Model Cities program was a disaster for Detroit. But it did accomplish its real goal: The creation of a state-supported, Democratic political power base. The program also resulted in much higher taxes – which were easy to pitch to poor voters who didn’t have to pay them. Cavanagh pushed a new income tax through the state legislature and a “commuter tax” on city workers.

    Unfortunately, as with all socialist programs, lots of folks simply don’t like being told what to do. Lots of folks don’t like being plundered by the government. They don’t like losing their jobs because of their race.

    In Detroit, they didn’t like paying new, large taxes to fund a largely black and Democratic political hegemony. And so, in 1966, more than 22,000 middle- and upper-class residents moved out of the city.

    But what about the poor? As my friend Doug Casey likes to say, in the War on Poverty, the poor lost the most. In July 1967, police attempted to break up a late-night party in the middle of the new “Model City.” The scene turned into the worst race riot of the 1960s. The violence killed more than 40 people and left more than 5,000 people homeless. One of the first stores to be looted was the black-owned pharmacy. The largest black-owned clothing store in the city was also burned to the ground. Cavanagh did nothing to stop the riots, fearing a large police presence would make matters worse. Five days later, Johnson sent in two divisions of paratroopers to put down the insurrection. Over the next 18 months, an additional 140,000 upper- and middle-class residents – almost all of them white – left the city.”

    http://whiskeyandgunpowder.com/detroits-socialist-nightmare-is-americas-future/

  18. “Those of you with a Democratic political affiliation may think what I’ve written above is biased or false. You may think what you like. But there is no way to argue that what the government has done to Detroit is anything but a horrendous crime. You may think what I’ve written above is merely a political analysis. Perhaps so, but politicians drive macroeconomic policy. And macroeconomic policy determines key financial metrics, like the trade-weighted value of a currency and key interest rates.

    The likelihood America will become a giant Detroit is growing – rapidly. Politicians now control the banking sector, most of the manufacturing sector (including autos), a large amount of media, and are threatening to take over health care and the production of electricity (via cap and trade rules). These are the biggest threats to wealth in the history of our country. And these threats are causing the world’s most accomplished and wealthy investors to actively short sell the United States – something that is unprecedented in my experience..”

    From the same article.

  19. Bron,

    The fact someone who doesn’t understand the concept of socialism any better than you do places all the blame of Detroit’s ills on one failed program (that was admittedly a bad idea) doesn’t make it so. That is the fallacy of composition. The Model Cities Program was generally a failure because it attempted to solve complex problems (urban blight, population flight, etc.) by essentially throwing money at the problem on local geographically defined areas without any substantive analysis or reasonable goals that addressed the underlying problems causing the blight situation. Part of this is because the program was a place-based program rather than one the focused on holistic systemic expenditures on larger scales. Part of this was because of the usual political jockeying for money whenever pols get near a large sum of it (i.e. corruption). LBJ’s intentions may have been good, but his execution sucked and he was hardly the brightest bulb to ever hold office. None of this changes that the problems today are still corruption based as they were before the attempt at the Model Cities Program. Correlation is not causation and in this instance the correlation of a failed social program does not equate to Detroit’s ills being rooted in socialism. Your boy at whiskey and gunpowder is engaging in analysis of false cause – post hoc ergo propter hoc – and outcome determinism instead of looking to actual causation. He’s free – like you – to disagree all he likes. He’s free to be wrong and full of logical errors in his analysis too.

  20. Bron,

    So, in all sincerity, if you could show me where the guy does something other than assert that it was all because of socialism, I’d appreciate it.

    Anyway, here are a few things that stuck out when I was reading.

    “I find it perplexing that only 20 years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the West continues to implement laws that mimic all of the failed policies of our former “communist” foes. ”

    He uses scare quotes around communist when talking about East Germany. What?

    “Cavanagh, a white man, pandered to poor underclass black voters. He marched with Martin Luther King down the streets of Detroit in 1963. (Of course, marching with King was the right thing to do… It’s just Cavanagh’s motives were political not moral.) ”

    Well, it’s obviously pandering because… well because it paints the guy in a negative light and he was a Democrat, that’s why!

    “But what about the poor? As my friend Doug Casey likes to say, in the War on Poverty, the poor lost the most. In July 1967, police attempted to break up a late-night party in the middle of the new “Model City.” The scene turned into the worst race riot of the 1960s. The violence killed more than 40 people and left more than 5,000 people homeless. One of the first stores to be looted was the black-owned pharmacy. The largest black-owned clothing store in the city was also burned to the ground. Cavanagh did nothing to stop the riots, fearing a large police presence would make matters worse. Five days later, Johnson sent in two divisions of paratroopers to put down the insurrection. Over the next 18 months, an additional 140,000 upper- and middle-class residents – almost all of them white – left the city.”

    See what a failure socialism is?. I mean, having police break up a party is complete socialism, as is then not doing enough to suppress a riot. Race riots NEVER happen outside of areas with a socialist government. Never.

    “Every single mayor of Detroit since 1974 has been black. Detroit has been a major recipient of every major social program since the early 1960s and has received hundreds of billions of dollars in government grants, loans, and programs. We now have a black, Democrat president, who is promising to do to America as a whole what his political mentors have done to Detroit.”

    O.k. so, will somebody please tell me how it’s relevant that the mayors of Detroit have been black, and so is the president? In fact, I take back the whole bit about the mayor obviously just pandering because it makes him look bad, this article takes pains to mention how every negative thing is somehow connected to black people. No wonder my dogs have been whining and scratching at the computer tower.

  21. “if you could show me where the guy does something other than assert that it was all because of socialism, I’d appreciate it.”

    Ahem, make that “…other than JUST assert…”

  22. While in college, my first job in a steel mill (See Wikipedia), was “Blacksmith Helper.” We didn’t do any horse shoes, but we made pinch bars, chisel points for jackhammers, and airhose fittings. After an 8-hour shift, my arms felt like rubber bands. The blacksmith held a small shaping hammer against a hot metal bar, while I swung a huge sledge hammer to strike the top of the blacksmith’s hammer. He encouraged me by shouting, “Again, again, again, harder, faster, again . . . “

  23. Gyges:

    some good points. But I dont think he is blaming black people. I think he is saying they are victims of failed policies. As Gene pointed out it is possible that the problem was a lack of precision in allocating funds Which could be the reason but I have yet to see politicians spend money wisely, oh maybe here and there.

    This may not be proof enough for the failure of socialism but it certainly is some proof of a failure of government.

  24. Bron,

    “But I dont think he is blaming black people. I think he is saying they are victims of failed policies. ”

    No, the victims are described as poor. The people responsible for the policies are all described as either black or “pandering” to blacks. He is making sure that that the reader associates the failed (supposedly) socialist policies with black people. Considering the history of painting black leaders as anti-American Communists, it’s really not a stretch to say that the guy saying that all these black socialists did bad things is playing on racial stereotypes.

    Can you give me a reason that he would make sure to mention the race of the mayors, and the president if he wasn’t trying implicitly blame black leaders?

    “This may not be proof enough for the failure of socialism but it certainly is some proof of a failure of government.”

    I guess then it wasn’t easy to find evidence that Detroit failed because it was socialist.

  25. Gyges:

    Spending other people’s money is socialist or communist, whatever you want to call it. So it is a failure of collectivism.

    I didnt look very hard.

    You do make a good point about speaking to the race. It is immaterial, communists/socialists come in all races.

  26. “Spending other people’s money is socialist or communist, whatever you want to call it. ”

    There you go making up definitions again, Bron.

    That’s not only intellectually dishonest and lazy, it’s childish. Then again, you haven’t stopped doing that no matter how often you are called on the carpet for it. No one expects you to stop now.

  27. Detroit failed because the cars were bigger than tanks and designed to break in six months, and then the fuel shortage hit.

  28. Communists and socialists do spend other peoples money. It is pretty simple, a socialist government taxes the crap out of people and then spends their money.

    Spending other people’s money is the essence of collectivism. Do you think it isnt collectivism/statism because the government does it? I could call it tribalism if that makes you feel better.

  29. Bron,

    ALL forms of government spend other people’s money and ALL governments (yes, even monarchies, dictatorships and oligarchies) are forms of collective action. It has been this way since government was invented. Taxation is the funding mechanism of government. All government. Some of the oldest written documents in existence are Sumerian tax records. Here’s a hint: the taxes just didn’t magically appear.

    Lie and distort all you like.

    We’re used to it.

    But don’t try to pretend your false statements are anything more than coverage for Rothbard’s childish idea that taxation is theft and – boo hoo – you don’t want to pay even as you enjoy the fruits of civilization paid for by taxes. This is, of course, a reflection of your Randian Objectivism and its ego worship and principle that selfishness (and ergo greed) is a virtue. At least you are consistent and predictable. So you got that going for you. Which is nice.

  30. I can see where a water and sewer works would need a worker with those skills for repair/fabrication work. Unless the system was replaced with a standardised system there probably are a lot of very old fittings and equipment that has to have items made to repair the old sections. I worked at a place that had old systems like that and fabrication for repairs was an ongoing necessity. Like a poster above said, the PD needs to be updated to reflect the actual duties before any conclusions can be drawn.

  31. The Jonathan Turley blog has been played by a Troll. The author “accidentally” forgot to include the full comments of Brian Hurdling who was the head of the company that studied the operations of the department.

    “All job descriptions would be rewritten to be much broader than current ones to allow more flexibility. Brian Hurding, vice president of EMA, the firm that did the study, said the department had 257 job classifications, including “horseshoer.”

    “We didn’t find any horses,” Hurding said. “That’s the strangest job classification I’ve ever seen.”

    He noted later that the person in the job also was classified as a welder, which was his main job. Under the reorganization plan, the number of job classifications would fall to 31.”

    A half truth is a whole lie. — Yiddish Proverb

  32. “Spending other people’s money is socialist or communist, whatever you want to call it. ”

    Personally, I call it being a personal shopper. Oh, or investment banking, or theft, or having an expense account, or being allowed to pick out your own gift, or having a line of credit, or well you get the idea.

    What I don’t call it is government spending, because once you pay your taxes, it’s no longer your money. It’s the government’s, luckily enough, we get to choose your government, and even become part of the government. This “governments spend other people’s money” is a line of crap, it WAS your money, and then, in exchange for the services the government provides, and the representation in the government you have, you gave it to the government. The grocery store doesn’t spend YOUR money to buy more stock, it spends the money you gave it in exchange for your food. You get the food, it gets the groceries. The same thing applies to society. YOU get all the benefits of living in a first world nation, it gets your taxes.

    At any time you’re free to try and get laws changed, or try and find someplace that has a government more in line with your views. What you’re not entitled to is get very concrete benefits from society and then complain when society wants you to pitch in. Your hard earned money (made possible by all the laws and infrastructure that exists thanks to the government).

    So I don’t accept that what Detroit was doing WAS spending someone else’s money, let alone that that meets the definition of Socialism.

  33. Article doesn’t say what the horseshoer actually does in the absence of horses.

    Presumably there are various bits of junk he repairs as needed and the real problem is the job title ‘horseshoer’.

  34. This is a bullshit, sensationalist article and you should be ashamed for trying to present it as a truth. The job description says “horseshoer” but if you did ANY sort of research at all, you’d realize that the guy making $29K a year (I think we can all agree that’s a pretty modest salary for a skilled trade) is a, you know, BLACKSMITH, at a municipal water department, and he does, oh, basic things like REPAIR TOOLS AND PARTS. We get it: you hate Detroit (probably because you hate black people) and you want it to fail. Loud and clear. However, when you post crap like this, it just makes you look plain stupid.

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