June 18, 2009
Brother, Can You Spare a BulldozerBy J. Robert Smith
Progress to a Progressive, like President Obama, has come to mean something entirely different these days. It's now about bulldozing blighted areas of cities rather than revitalizing them. It's actually a big white flag raised over the bloating corpse of liberal tax, regulation and urban policies.
It's called "Shrink to Survive." The Left is billing the failure and decline of towns and cities, principally in the Northeast and Rust Belt, as inevitable. Nothing can be done to reverse the trend, they say, so go with it. Manage it smartly. And, oh, by the way, don't blame us.
Likely, more than a few emperors and senators said the same thing as ancient Rome crumbled.
The cheerleader for this latest liberal fad is Dan Kildee, the Treasurer of Genesee County, Michigan. He also has the President's ear. And President Obama, not wanting to be off the cutting-edge, intends to take this fad national.
Within Genesee County's precincts is the GM-abandoned City of Flint. Flint is, unquestionably, a basket case. It needs help, but the best Treasurer Kildee can come up with is a fleet of bulldozers. About razing large swaths of his hometown, he says:
Catch the "we're all shrinking" line? Liberals are forever inclusive. So, if Flint is bulldozing, shouldn't economically troubled cities like Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland join the "Raze to Save" movement? But it may not stop with those sputtering metropolises. Especially with a national economy teetering on the brink of a crash.
Perhaps this is picking a nit, but how does any city, or anything in creation, sustainably shrink? It's a puzzler, but liberals are good with words. Orwell would be proud.
For those who don't make putty of the language, it may be said that Flint is shrinking -- unsustainably -- because of decades of heavy-handed government, state and federal. I'll permit Kildee to man-up for local government's responsibility.
Consider liberalism's role in Flint's debacle. Decades of over-regulation have led to the decline and fall of the domestic auto industry. CAFE Standards, routinely monkeyed with by Congresses, have put a big hurt on GM and its competitors. Gasoline price spikes and drops have made car buyers' heads spin. Federal road blocks to greater domestic energy production are a major culprit. Meanwhile, the U.A.W., pillar of the liberal establishment for decades, piled costs onto GM and other domestic automakers that have proved unsustainable. The nation's corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world.
Michigan is the other culprit. High taxes - corporate, personal and otherwise - are drags on the state's economy. The public sector makes one vast sucking sound, pouring good money after bad into failed public education systems and an array of government programs. Right-to-work? Not in Michigan. It's a closed shop.
Flint's decline isn't etched in stone; no titanic force of nature is bringing about its demise. Fair, compassionate liberal government is the catalyst.
But there's more to the Left's agenda than trying to wiggle out of blame for urban dissolution. There's the contempt that liberals have for the American mindset. This, again, from the refreshingly candid, if impolitic, Kildee:
Yes, Americans finally have to ‘fess up: they want growing businesses to employ them, fatter paychecks, nicer and bigger homes, an SUV or two in the garage, more shopping centers, a wider choice of eateries and on and on. They want a real future. Such crass materialists.
It appears that a lot of former Flint citizens share Americans' obsession for growth. Workers in their prime, and young people, have voted with their feet, moving to such obscenely growth-oriented cities as Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix.
Kildee's economic remedy for Incredibly Shrinking Flint is to emphasize the development of education and healthcare services. Both sectors have government as a major player and regulator, and include many nonprofits. So, Kildee's solution seems to be to make Flint a wholly owned subsidiary of government.
Of course, lowering taxes, slashing red tape, aggressively pushing enterprise zones, promoting urban homesteading -- putting out the welcome mat to entrepreneurs, old and young -- just wouldn't occur to Government is the Answer acolytes.
Even shrinking cities like Flint need tax bases -- revenue -- to do the basics: police, fire, sanitation and so forth. Flint can't rob Rich Peter to pay Poor Paul, when Rich Peter has found his way - and riches - in Denver. Flint can't always count on an economically depressed Michigan for handouts. And President Obama has maxed out the nation's credit cards. Cranking up the printing presses to make funny money won't work; funny money doesn't buy much of anything.
Government-town Flint may find itself on the way to extinction, if the local, state and federal governments don't see the light. And the light is getting off the backs and out of the way of enterprising, productive Michiganders.
Growth isn't an option, it's an imperative. A bulldozed Flint means a place of meadows and forests - literally. Great for picnics, hunting and fishing, provided you carry out your trash and don't shoot or hook any endangered critters. The far-off descendents of Flint's former citizens would appreciate the consideration.