All of the above contributed to the depopulation of the city, which went from 1.9 million residents in 1950 to 700,000 now - a minority of whom earns enough to pay taxes.
Yet difficult as Detroit's economic issues were, bad governance made all of them worse.
For too long, too many people whose first concern was supposed to be serving citizens concentrated instead on feeding off whatever public resources Detroit had.
Even now, with municipal bankruptcy staring them in the face, some of Detroit's creditors are resisting Orr's plan to restructure the city's debt and devote $1.25 billion in savings over 10 years toward, well, saving the city - block by burned-out block.
At last check, the 54-year-old Orr was planning to take some bankers on a bus tour of devastated neighborhoods, an effort to raise what Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press calls "empathy capital."
One can only hope for his success.
Certainly the Michigan law under which Gov. Rick Snyder, R, appointed Orr authorizes him to do what is necessary - from ripping up union contracts to blowing the whistle on alleged pension fund malfeasance. German chancellor Angela Merkel could only wish for such quasi-dictatorial power over her Greek clients.
Of course, Detroit should never have reached the point where it needed an enlightened dictator. Motor City residents, public employees, financiers and politicians should have practiced the shared sacrifice Orr is belatedly attempting to impose.
Yet they are hardly the only ones to fail. In California, the cities of Vallejo, San Bernardino and Stockton have declared municipal bankruptcy, from which only Vallejo has emerged; Harrisburg, Pa., is insolvent.
Last month Fitch Ratings warned that it might downgrade $8.7 billion of Chicago debt due to a growing unfunded-pension liability.
Maybe Americans have nothing to learn from Greece.
Detroit, though, is closer to home, and its lessons are not so easily ignored.
Lane is a member of The Washington Post's editorial board.