The City Of The Undead: Detroit Stops Issuing Death Certificates Due To Lack Of Paper

220px-Zombies_in_Moscow250px-Flag_of_Detroit,_Michigan.svgIt appears that, if you live in Detroit, there is no escaping debt — not even with your own death. Detroit’s funeral directors received a curious message for the city last month reading “FYI, city of Detroit can’t process death certificates because they have no paper and don’t have money to buy any.” It is the ultimate hellscape scenario: you cannot even legally die. The question is how this refusal to issue death certificates will affect the myriad of insurance and legal obligations of surviving families. Vendors are now refusing to issue credit to the city and the paper vendor has demanded cash. The city refused, so families have been left with the undead.

We have been following Detroit’s plunge into insolvency for years. While the city was clearly hit by the economic changes, particularly the decline of the auto market, the effort to blame that economic downturn for the city’s problems ignores decades of corrupt and wasteful government. Detroit politicians have been under continual criminal investigation and many have been forced to resign or have gone to jail. Yet, Detroit voters continued to elect the least competent and most corrupt figures to lead the city. That history had soured the reaction of many to demands for federal bailouts.

The plan is for Wayne County to take over issuing birth and death certificates. That’s right, until the shift, Detroit will also have a class of the unborn.

Even with a delay of a week or so, families will not be able to access bank accounts, file for insurance payments or even file in probate court. The delay may not seem too difficult for most families but it can be a critical barrier for those who are close to the economic cliff.

In the meantime, a funeral director is quoted as saying that he was appalled to see city workers at the vital records department sitting outside because they had nothing to do.

38 thoughts on “The City Of The Undead: Detroit Stops Issuing Death Certificates Due To Lack Of Paper”

  1. Detroit is the 9th highest taxed city in the country. Number 1 is Bridgeport, Ct. Both are corrupt and broke. Who the hell are you going to tax when you drive people and businesses out of town w/ high taxes that they see wasted and stolen?

  2. When my mother passed away I was charged a hefty fee for every official Death Certificate copy. You need a lot of offical copies to settle various Estate matters. Printer copies are no good. So, just HTF is this going to work?

  3. Detroit is the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the country. If we continue on this path of failing to maintain infrastructure in the interest of “small government and low (or no) taxes,” this is our future. When I was a kid in grade school, we discussed the issue of not being able to afford both “guns and butter.” During WWII, much of the treasure of the US was spent on guns, which is a metaphor for military expenses. Butter, metaphor for luxuries, was in short supply.

    Our spoiled rotten military and law enforcement industrial complexes are sucking up the gun money, but we still want to have butter. It is now crunch time. We either dial it back as was done at the end of WWI and WWII, or we go broke. We have to decide if we want the cities, states and Federal government to provide services, or do we spend it on the latest new whiz-bang toys for the Pentagon and prison-industrial complex, so more CEOs can live in 40,000 square foot houses.

  4. further proof that we need to overthrow the need for money. it is a noose around everything good and decent, creating problems that should have no reason to exist. humans created the system and we can destroy it.

  5. I don’t disagree with that RWL, although my agreement wasn’t explicit.

    However, I’d also point to another example: the way rebuilding New Orleans was handled after Katrina shows the same kind of oligarchical disdain for maintaining proper infrastructure when it interferes with their profits.

  6. All of you have made extremely valid points…. Yes nick… Corruption and greed…. But isn’t that synonymous with being an elected politican…. Genes right the trifecta is abundant…..Dredd made good points…. As well as RWL….and even Bron…..

  7. AY & Nick,

    Dredd is right. Detroit’s dilemma is just the beginning for the rest of America. When the Elites set up this system, they didn’t care how it was going to affect the middle and lower class. As long as it is not hurting their pockets or oligarchial rule, Elites don’t care if every major city in America becomes like Detroit.

    It is starting in places like Chicago (can’t wait to see Trump Towers being rented out to Section 8 recipients), LA, Philadelphia, DC, etc.

  8. Gentlemen, gentlemen! There’s no reason to argue! Stupidity, corruption and greed are all related; a tri-fecta of bad human behavior that added up to be more than the sum of its parts that is Detroit. However, I think it is less a matter of particular party than a reflection of what a lack of opposition can and usually does bring to the table in a single party system. You can look to Soviet Russia for a prime example. It was Detroit on a much larger scale.

    The question remains. Is a two party system really better than a multi-party system or is two parties simply the illusion of choice as well as the illusion of opposition?

    There’s the rub.

  9. The article fails to mention the State of Michigan’s establishment of an Emergency Manager (State’s taking over of the City Government of Detroit) and Detroit’s current bankruptcy status (i.e. Detroit services should be either financially supported by the state or through the terms of its’ bankruptcy).


    You are right about property tax sales. However, you have to keep those properties in good/inhabitable condition. Once you do this, then you have to worry about someone breaking and entering your home (police will take a few minutes-maybe an hour-to come). What will you do? Live there or become a landlord, and rent the property out to college students, section 8 recipients, or become an absentee landlord? Do you really think some of those areas will be making a comeback, especially with the poor school district (is city of detroit public school system unaccredited?), and the wealthy suburb of Oakland County outside of Detroit?

  10. Take note of dynamics of plutonomy:

    “‘hottest downtown’ in the country is in bankrupt Detroit”

    (CNN Money). This model is straight from the minds of the 1% plutocracy, and my come to a city near you.

  11. AY, Stupid is not the only reason Detroit is a wasteland. Corruption and greed are ahead of stupid from my perspective.

  12. Nick,

    The city of Detroit is being punished by its long standing opposition to Lansing…. I know stupid ran the city for decades…. But, when you cut per pupil funding, grant funding, revenue sharing and property taxes go down…. You’re asking for ashes if the embers to pay…. If you’ll look to the west side of the state that economy is very robust….. There are major party lines drawn…. And you’re penalized for even agreeing with anyone in the other party….

  13. Auto industry is dead? Really?

    Subaru is running out of cars (recent article – google it). Many automakers are doing just fine. The death of the auto industry has been greatly exaggerated to accommodate a theme that no one in Detroit is to blame. It is never a bad policy/law/regulation, it is always something mythical. Bad/mal governance is issue number 1, 2, and 3.

  14. In the absence of government, capitalism is king! Enterprising people will find ways around the limitations, and make themselves successful in the process.

  15. personally, I would start buying property in Detroit. You can get properties for $2,000 to 5,000 just pay the taxes and wait for 10 years and you will be doing real well.

    If you are a young architect, developer, engineer go and start developing property. Big money is flowing into that city and buying it up at fire sale prices.

  16. The business district of Detroit is booming.

    The playpen of the plutocrats.

    Detroit may be a microcosm of the larger plutonomy.

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