August 1 2012
If You Like Your Life in the ‘Burbs, You Can Keep It—Or Maybe Not
If you like your life in the ‘burbs, you can keep it—or maybe you can’t.
Stanley Kurtz has an intriguing piece out today saying that in a second term, President Obama would diminish suburban areas and beef up cities. The suburbs, according to Kurtz, would be folded into cities, merging schools, housing, transportation, and “above all taxation.”
Obama’s plans to undercut the political and economic independence of America’s suburbs reach back decades. The community organizers who trained him in the mid-1980s blamed the plight of cities on taxpayer “flight” to suburbia. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Obama’s mentors at the Gamaliel Foundation (a community-organizing network Obama helped found) formally dedicated their efforts to the budding fight against suburban “sprawl.” From his positions on the boards of a couple of left-leaning Chicago foundations, Obama channeled substantial financial support to these efforts. On entering politics, he served as a dedicated ally of his mentors’ anti-suburban activism.
Although the outright abolition of the suburbs would raise a hue and cry, the project, according to Kurtz, can be advanced more stealthily. Government can block new developments on the outskirts of towns, create new taxes to make driving more expensive, and develop regional tax sharing schemes. Kurtz says that the groundwork is already being laid:
The centerpiece of the Obama administration’s anti-suburban plans is a little-known and seemingly modest program called the Sustainable Communities Initiative. The “regional planning grants” funded under this initiative — many of them in battleground states like Florida, Virginia, and Ohio — are set to recommend redistributive policies, as well as transportation and development plans, designed to undercut America’s suburbs. Few have noticed this because the program’s goals are muffled in the impenetrable jargon of “sustainability,” while its recommendations are to be unveiled only in a possible second Obama term.
One of the things about this that, if true, is troubling is that the president hasn’t bothered to tell us—with President Obama, you rarely get as much information as a voter needs to decide. Occasionally, there is a slipup—most notably the “You didn’t build that” speech—that gives us a window into what the president really thinks. But these are rare—President Obama remains both the most famous man in the world and one of the least known.
Another troubling aspect of this—again, I say, if Kurtz has it right—is that it is yet another assault on our freedom. Americans have crossed the continent looking to live where they want to live. This appears to be a plan to have them live where President Obama wants them to live.
Of course, this probably wouldn’t work—but can you imagine the mess trying to do this would make? As a disaster, it would likely rival Obamacare and the stimulus. The problem is, you can’t just ask the president if he plans to do this. He won’t tell us.