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.
Mayor Bing would not comment for this story.