betacity


I’m not subsidized!

The suburbs are subsidized? I didn’t pay for my split level and my SUV? Not for the gas I consume?

No you didn’t. But why should we care? We need to spend our tax money on something and it may as well be the things that people want, including cars and houses on acreage and cheap energy.

Well there are reasons to care. Besides the rank hypocrisy of the subsidized libertarian, sprawl and its discontents are one of the biggest contributors to public debt.

Here is an excerpt from Chakrabarti’s book A Country of Cities which lists ways to end the subsidies. Prescriptions are: take away subsidies for mortgages in suburban areas; don’t subsidize gas; price gas to include pollution and congestion; percapita distribution of federal monies to multimodal transportation.

Good ideas that few believe and ever fewer want; all the more reason to talk about them:

While the ‘inversion’ is irrefutable and, some would argue, welcome, few examine the potential long-term benefits of this trend – particularly if government rather than promoting suburbanization instead encouraged urbanism, or at least gave it an even chance. The necessary changes would include modifying or curtailing the vast array of  federal policies that currently subsidize suburban America, including: phasing out the federal home mortgage interest deduction (MID); ceasing the backing by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of large mortgages that otherwise would not be underwritten by the private market; removing subsidies for the oil industry; reclassifying SUVs and minivans as light trucks; allocating federal transportation dollars by population, and distributing those dollars fairly across all modes of transportation, including rail and mass transit, instead of disproportionately funding highways and runways; streamlining the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) to drastically reduce the red tape associated with urban development and building large-scale infrastructure; and, finally, pricing fuel to reflect what economists call the ‘negative externalities,’ or the actual price of gas if the societal costs of pollution and congestion were included (many economists put this price at $10 or more per gallon.)

As we will see in the pages that follow, such policy reforms would dramatically improve our economy, our environment, and our chances for equal opportunity. Achieving consensus for these changes, however, would be a tremendous challenge, and would require a recasting of the political spectrum as we know it. People are accustomed to their subsidies, particularly those in the middle class, who tend to believe they are not subsidized at all.

Vishaan Chakrabarti, A Country of Cities, p 38.

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