And you thought it was bad now:
life of destitute Americans during the Great Depression
Downtrodden: Children of migrant fruit worker in Berrien County, Michigan
The derelict homes of a bankrupt city:
A vandalised home covered with red spray paint and smashed windows sits vacant in an east side neighborhood of Detroit.
The street used to be a busy hub of families, but its occupants have fled their homes leaving whole blocks empty and dark.
The city's budget problems have deepened to such an extent that it could run out of cash in a matter of weeks or months and ultimately be forced into what would be the largest-ever Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy filing in the United States.
Ghost town: A vacant and blighted home, covered with red spray paint, sits alone in an east side neighborhood once full of homes in Detroit
The story of Detroit's decline is decades old - its tax revenue and population have shrunk and labor costs have remained out of unfeasible
Signs of decline are everywhere in Detroit - crime is rising with the murder rate of one per 1,719 people last year, more than 11 times the rate in New York City.
The jobless rate is above 18 percent, more than twice rate for the country as a whole. At the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month, luxury was in the air. Pricey new Bentleys and Maseratis glittered - including a Maserati 2014 Quattroporte with a $132,000 price tag; U.S. Cabinet Secretaries and dignitaries rubbed shoulders; and many of the well-heeled attendees ponied up for a $300-a-ticket black-tie charity ball.
Cuts: Spray paint on the front of a vacant and blighted home says the gas and water utilities have been turned off in the east side neighborhood
Running out: The city's budget problems have deepened to such an extent that it could run out of cash in a matter of weeks or months
But in a city that is slowly dying, the glitz didn't extend much beyond the Cobo Center exhibition hall.
General Motors Co (GM.N) and Chrysler (FIA.MI), which along with Ford Motor Co (F.N) gave the Motor City its identity, survived near-death experiences after filing for bankruptcy during the financial crisis.
Now, Detroit itself is edging closer to a similar precipice, only unlike the automakers, its chances of getting a federal bailout are almost nonexistent.
The story of Detroit's decline is decades old: Its tax revenue and population have shrunk and labor costs have remained out of sync.
Bankrupt: Detroit could ultimately be forced into what would be the largest-ever Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy filing in the United States
Frustrated by the lack of concrete progress, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, last month appointed a team to scour the city's books.
The audit could result in a state takeover of Detroit's finances through the appointment of an emergency financial manager.
Such a manager, who would seize control of the city's checkbook, could then propose federal bankruptcy court as the best option.
Snyder, who has called the situation 'a crisis in terms of financial affairs,' said the team would deliver its report in February.
Investigation: Frustrated by the lack of concrete progress, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, last month appointed a team to scour the city's books
'Detroit is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy after the City Council has failed to make the necessary cuts to deal with having a smaller population,' said Rick Jones, chairman of the Republican majority caucus in the state Senate.
Jones, who has indicated he does not favor a bankruptcy, said he would like to see an emergency manager installed to fix the city's problems. If that failed, there would be a case for finding a way to shrink the Detroit municipal area, he argued.
Detroit's population is now just over 700,000 - down 30 percent since 1990 - but the city still has to provide services to an area encompassing more land than San Francisco, Boston and the borough of Manhattan.
While Democratic Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit City Council have moved to reduce spending and initiate some reforms to stave off a takeover, including layoffs and wage and benefit cuts, the progress may not be enough for Michigan officials and lawmakers.
Spotlight: President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at the Daimler Detroit Diesel engine plant in December
In the booming post-Second World War era, Detroit was America's fifth-largest city.
Today, it ranks 18th. In addition to a sharp population decline, it suffers from high unemployment related to a loss of businesses, a flood of home foreclosures and a cut in state funding.
That has led to shriveling revenue, leaving the city unable to afford a workforce of more than 10,000 and the surging health and pension costs that go with them and with its retirees.
Issues: Mayor Dave Bing talks about the city's crime problem during a press conference at the Coleman Young building in Detroit
As a result, credit ratings on Detroit's approximately $8.2 billion of outstanding debt have sunk deeper into junk territory.
The city's labor costs, including health care and pensions, are shrinking in absolute terms but rising as a share of the budget.
They are slated to drop to $968 million, or nearly 49.5 percent of the operating budget, in the fiscal year ending June 30 versus $1.14 billion, or 45.5 percent, a year earlier. A bankruptcy would be messy.
The interests of creditors would likely collide with those of labor unions wanting to protect workers' benefits, said Eric Scorsone, a Michigan State University economist who has written papers on municipal bankruptcy and on the state's emergency manager laws.
'It is going to require the players - the City Council, the mayor, the state - to be on the same page. If you go into bankruptcy with a lot of conflict and dissent, it's going to cost more,' said Scorsone.
It could also be racially explosive. Detroit has the largest percentage of black people of any U.S. city, with 83 percent of the population identifying themselves as African American, black or Negro, according to the 2010 U.S. census.
Most of Michigan's state government, including the governor's office, is run by white Republicans.
Detroit Council Member JoAnn Watson, who along with two other members of the city's all-black City Council has been resisting reform measures, said she is still hopeful of a federal bailout or an injection of state money that she claims the city is owed.
Changing times: In the booming post-Second World War era, Detroit was America's fifth-largest city
Heyday: Despite previous glory ears the city now suffers from high unemployment related to a loss of businesses, a flood of home foreclosures and a cut in state funding
Mayor Bing would not comment for this story.
The automakers have little to say publicly about the crisis. Most of their operations in Michigan are now outside Detroit, and getting any top executive to even discuss the possibility of a city bankruptcy was almost impossible at the auto show.
'I don't want to get into the politics,' said GM CEO Dan Akerson, while Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said: 'I don't see what the consequences would be for us.'
One of the city's biggest challenges is its complex set of labor agreements with a whopping 48 bargaining units that represent most of the city's workforce.
Trip through time: The Ford factory at Detroit Dearborn in Michigan
Thriving business: A gathering of workers in the yard of the Ford factories between the two wars
Control: Station of the electric commands regulating the temperature of ovens at the Ford car factory in Detroit
Max Newman, a bankruptcy attorney at Michigan-based Butzel Long, said a Chapter 9 bankruptcy could help the city throw out its collective bargaining agreements with unions.
Costs would have to be tackled since Detroit cannot just jack up taxes to reduce the cumulative budget deficit, which grew to $326.6 million in fiscal 2012 from $196.6 million in fiscal 2011.
The state would likely resist tax increases, and they might only make matters worse anyway.
'If taxes go up any further it would exacerbate the flight out of the city,' Newman said.
But for some of those who have seen Detroit struggle for years, bankruptcy is starting to look like the least awful option - even though it will be painful.
'I think...off and on, that it wouldn't be a bad idea,' said former Ford chief financial officer Allan Gilmour, now the president of Detroit's Wayne State University. 'Let's clean this out once and for all.'
A bankrupt city in decay: Detroit declares fiscal emergency as it faces being largest city in U.S. placed under state control
Michigan's governor says that unless Detroit's fortunes suddenly and miraculously improve, he will appoint an emergency manager to take control of the troubled city that was once one of the nation's most prosperous manufacturing centers.
In 1950 Detroit had 1.8 million people, a number which was down to 713,000 people by 2010. Parts of the bankrupt city now lie abandoned and desolate, a target for vandals and asset-strippers who remove copper roofs and valuable materials from buildings that once employed thousands.
If the governor follows through with his plan, Detroit would become the largest city in the United States to have its finances placed under state control.
‘In many respects, I describe today as both a sad day ... saying there's a financial emergency in Detroit, but also a day of optimism and promise because it's time to start moving forward and solving these problems,’ Rick Snyder told The Associated Press ahead of a community forum at Wayne State University.
Desolate: The abandoned General Motors Fisher Body plant #21, in Detroit, Michigan. On Friday Governor Rick Snyder declared a financial emergency for the City of Detroit
Broken: A building on Grand River Avenue advertises home for sale for $1,500
Abandoned: A pedestrian passes by the abandoned Abundant Life Christian Church on Grand River Avenue. In 1950 Detroit had 1.8 million people, a number which was down to 713,000 people by 2010
Stripped: Abandoned buildings have had all valuable materials removed, like these on Belleterre
Mayor Dave Bing, who has long opposed the appointment of a manager, said Friday that he would look at the impact of Snyder's decision and other options to determine what to do next.
He has a 10-day appeal period in which to present a better turnaround plan or point out flaws in a report by a review team that spent two months delving into the city's books. ‘If, in fact, the appointment of an emergency financial manager both stabilizes the city fiscally and supports our restructuring initiatives, which improve the quality of life for our citizens, then I think there is a way for us to work together,’ Bing said in an emailed statement.
Detroit has a $327 million budget deficit and faces more than $14 billion in long-term debt. It has been making ends meet on a month-to-month basis with the help of bond money held in a state escrow account.
Vacant: A boarded-up house stands empty in the once-thriving Brush Park neighborhood with the downtown Detroit skyline behind it
Lost: The abandoned General Motors Fisher Body plant. GM is still based in Detroit
Collapse: A rundown building on Grand River Avenue in Detroit, Michigan
Ransacked: An empty apartment building that has been stripped of copper roof and other materials sits next to Northwestern High School
The city has also instituted mandatory unpaid days off for many city workers.
Those troubles, along with underfunded city services such as police and fire departments and the absence of legitimate turnaround plans from Bing and the City Council, forced his hand, Snyder said.
‘Citizens are not getting the services they deserve and need, public safety, lighting, transportation - all those areas need help, and it's time to call all hands on deck and say let's all work together.’
Snyder said he has a top candidate picked out for the emergency manager job, but he would not elaborate except to say the person had ‘strong financial’ and ‘strong legal knowledge.’
Casualty: The abandoned Packard Automotive Plant which one produced luxury cars
Vandalised: The interior and exterior of the abandoned Abundant Life Christian Church are covered in graffiti
State of emergency: Michigan's governor said he is preparing to appoint an emergency manager to take control of Detroit, which was once one of the nation's most prosperous manufacturing centers
Big despair: If the governor follows through with his plan, Detroit would become the largest city in the United States to have its finances placed under state control
Emergency managers have the power under state law to develop financial plans, renegotiate labor contracts, revise and approve budgets to help control spending, sell off some city assets and suspend the salaries of elected officials.
‘The role here is to be that supportive partner and to work on projects where we could really make a difference,’ Snyder said, adding there is no ‘big bailout coming’ from the state.
Detroit would be the largest city in the United States to come under state oversight, according to James Hohman, assistant director of Fiscal Policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank based in Midland, Mich.
In Michigan, Detroit would be the sixth city placed under state oversight. Pontiac, Flint, Ecorse, Allen Park and Benton Harbor already have managers, as do public school districts in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights.
In many respects, I describe today as both a sad day ... saying there's a financial emergency in Detroit, but also a day of optimism and promise because it's time to start moving forward and solving these problems,' said Governor Rick Snyder
Opposed: Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who has long opposed the appointment of a manager, said Friday that he would look at the impact of Snyder's decision and other options to determine what to do next
Ghost city: Detroit has a $327 million budget deficit and faces more than $14 billion in long-term debt
A review team first looked into Detroit's books in December 2011 but stopped short of declaring a financial emergency.
A second team began to pore over the city's finances again this past December and gave Snyder a report last month that said the city's accumulated deficit as of June 30, 2012, would have topped $900 million if leaders in previous years had not issued bonds.
The review team also said that because of Detroit's cash deficit, the city would have had to either increase revenues or decrease expenditures - or both - by about $15 million per month for three months starting in January to ‘remain financially viable.’
A brochure produced by the state and distributed Friday said that an emergency manager could ‘more quickly and efficiently reform the finances in the city and stop the cycle of overspending and one-time fixes. Solving the structural problems will create a strong financial foundation that will allow Detroit to survive.’
Snyder's declaration is the latest in a string of embarrassing setbacks to befall Detroit in recent years.
Days off: The city has also instituted mandatory unpaid days off for many city workers
Previous look: A review team first looked into Detroit's books in December 2011 but stopped short of declaring a financial emergency
Explicit text messages made public in 2008 revealed the tawdry affairs and other shenanigans by the city's then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, leading to criminal charges and eventually prison time for him.
The 2010 census revealed that Detroit - which at one time was the symbol of American progress and held great political power thanks to the auto industry - had lost a quarter-million people over the previous decade.
An undermanned and underpaid police force sometimes appears overwhelmed by the city's high violent crime rate, and the number of murders is on the rise.
Snyder said he expects an emergency manager to get to work immediately once appointed.
‘It took 50 or 60 years to get in this situation, so it doesn't turnaround overnight,’ Snyder told the AP. ‘I would hope there are more low-hanging-fruit things that can be done fairly quickly to start showing there's a difference going on.’
Population decline: The 2010 census revealed that Detroit had lost a quarter-million people over the previous decade