What is a citizen of depressed Detroit, booming Houston or bucolic Sauk Centre, Minn., to make of the phenomenon of New York City? A visitor is immediately struck by the signs of New York's unsurpassed wealth: majestic skyscrapers thrusting boldly into the air, great ships busily plying its waters, expensive limousines hurtling down its avenues, well-dressed people rushing along Wall Street, Fifth Avenue and the other storied thoroughfares. These signs of affluence symbolize the city's position as the capital of American finance and commerce. All the more incredible, then, that the New York City government is broke.

Moreover, it...

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