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Is Government Planning to Force You to Live in the City?

May 13, 2009 by  

Is Government Planning to Force You to Live in the City?

Was President Barack Obama beginning efforts to engage in social engineering when he formed a partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)?

That’s a question posed in a report compiled by Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D., of The Heritage Foundation after he received a press release from the two government agencies announcing the formation of their pact.

According to the release, the partnership was formed to create “affordable, sustainable communities.” Included among its many goals are projects to:

  • Develop a new cost index that combines housing and transportation costs into a single measure to better illuminate the true costs by “redefining affordability and making it transparent.”
  • Encourage transportation choice.
  • Require even more planning by the many federally funded regional planning entities that are already attempting to guide Americans toward a supposedly better life.

According to Utt, liberals have long—it began in the 1950s—held a bias against suburbanites and urban sprawl. They believe people should live in municipalities with strict zoning laws, impact fees and regulations to ensure something called smart growth while making greater use of public transportation and forgoing automobiles.

Data show that many Americans rejected that idea, preferring instead to move away from the city center where they found more affordable housing, better public services and education systems. What they sacrificed with longer commutes, they benefited from the savings in housing and what they believed was a more comfortable lifestyle.

Now advocates of the smart growth movement are taking a different tack, and they have enlisted the Federal Government in their efforts. Although reams of data exist showing that the cost of suburban living is comparable to—if not less than—living in a municipality, smart growth advocates contend the data overlook many hidden costs of suburban lifestyles. These asserted costs, according to Utt, rely on unsubstantiated allegations of greater infrastructure costs, environmental degradation and the high cost of automobile operation.

Smart growth advocates contend that essential services can better be delivered to Americans living in higher density developments—such as town houses and high rise apartments—through public transportation, thereby freeing commuters from their cars. Additional benefits come through the preservation of land, reduced carbon footprints, greater social interaction through forced proximity, and higher aesthetic standard in community and housing design as government planners and politicians assume greater responsibility for artistic choices, according to Utt.

The DOT’s own data, from a study conducted in 2004, shows that public transportation is not an inexpensive mode of transit, as its proponents claim, and in fact is far more expensive than travel by automobile. Begun as an annual report to Congress, the DOT was forced to cancel further studies after it revealed that public transit survives only on massive taxpayer subsidies that are generally hidden and excluded from any discussion of the costs and benefits of different modes of travel.

According to The Heritage Foundation, data from 2006 (the most recent year for which data is available) shows that the federal subsidy for public transportation was $165.61 per 1,000 passenger miles, while automobiles earned the federal government a profit of 93 cents per 1,000 passenger miles through federal fuel taxes.

Currently, HUD requires states, counties and cities to conduct five-year Consolidated Plans estimating housing status and needs, and DOT requires the federally funded Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) to develop Long-Range Transportation Plans and four-year Transportation Improvement Programs.

Yet, despite billions of dollars of spending on these plans, housing is less affordable than ever and traffic congestion is worse and infrastructure continues to dilapidate, Lott writes.

Now, through the partnership, the agencies have more money and more clout with which to press more of a smart growth agenda on the American people.

But the smart growth idea, writes Utt, exhibits a child-like faith in government planning, a concept that half the world quickly abandoned in the late 1980s when all of the formerly socialist countries (except, of course, for Cuba and North Korea) rejected state planning in favor of private-sector initiative, economic freedom and market solutions.

While some may hope this effort is nothing more than the President’s attempt to use the White House as a bully pulpit to encourage Americans to mimic the urbane lifestyle he experienced in an upscale Chicago neighborhood, the record of past such efforts by the federal government is more troubling, Utt writes.

In January 1998, President Bill Clinton’s Envi­ronmental Protection Agency threatened to with­hold federal transportation funds from the Atlanta region because it did not meet federal air-quality standards and said that it would agree to restore the funding only if the state of Georgia dramatically altered its land-use and transportation policies in ways similar to those characteristic of the smart growth polices that discourage single-family detached housing and encourage public transit use and investment. Georgia agreed to do this, at least through the waning days of the Clinton administra­tion, but soon abandoned the policies when leader­ship in Washington changed.

Carol Browner headed the EPA when the threat was imposed on Atlanta under Clinton. Today, she is assistant to the president for Energy and Climate Change. With the prospect of even worse to come from this new DOT-HUD partnership on sustain­able communities, Utt suggests that those who are skeptical of the President’s grandiose efforts at social engineering should be on the alert.

Bob Livingston

is an ultra-conservative American and author of The Bob Livingston Letter™, founded in 1969. Bob has devoted much of his life to research and the quest for truth on a variety of subjects. Bob specializes in health issues such as nutritional supplements and alternatives to drugs, as well as issues of privacy (both personal and financial), asset protection and the preservation of freedom.

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  • http://arthurjbryant@sbcglobal.net Arthur J. Bryant

    Reply to comment on “Why gold anyway” :

    It is still speculation not investment. I oppose mislabeling it “investment”. It is speculation on the relative changes in the exchange rate of paper money and a metal. Often it is profitable but at times it is not. Over decades it is profitable more often than not, but hardly by much. I remember gold selling for $1500 for a short period, then later selling for $300.
    If we were lost in the desert with you possessing gold and me water, except for kindness, I would not trade my water for your gold.
    I too am handicapped from World War II. 210 per cent. What did I do? I went to college while working, earning four college degrees. This helped. I bought four Boston apartment houses. Then I got a job in Connecticut. I sold the real estate. Over the years they were profitable, real investments and not speculation. The final one I made a bit over the years but sold at a meager profit because rent control had destroyed value. The speculative second part of the investment return was barely positive. I also speculated in stocks, with good profits but occasional loses that reduced my total profits. Then I became an investor in stocks. I continued buying and reinvesting dividends and did not switch to bonds at age 50 or any other age. Many are down in price now but I live in part on some of the dividends and continue to reinvest some of the dividends. Lower prices are not a problem because I am not selling. Instead they benefit, since the reinvestment purchases more shares.
    To each his own. But to be correct, call a speculation “speculation”‘, and not “investment”.

    • Gerry

      Sorry to tell you this Arthur, but gold has never gone to $1500. After Nixon took the US off of the Gold Standar the price of gold then $35 per ounce quickly skyroketted to a mere $735 by the end of Carter’s Reign of Terror. Under Reagan and Paul Volker the money supply strengthened and the price of gold quickly collapsed with the threat of inflation on the decline. Gold dropped to the low $300s and by the mid ’90 it was running in the mid $200. It did not start increasing until 1999 (In 1998 I put Vanguard Precious Metals Fund into my IRA, and the fund NAV declined every month until June of 1999) After that it slowly rose as Bush restored Deficit spending. It had gotten back to a record of nearly $900 an ounce by 2006 and then began to decline. Overall if you bought gold in 1979 near its peak, adjusted for inflation you would have lost as much money had you bought stocks in Oct 2007, High tech in March of 1998, Realestate in 2007, corporate bonds in 2008, treasuries in 1970, or regularly invest according to the recomendations of Jim Cramer. Or Just chucked half you paycheck out of the window.

  • http://ustoday binski

    there is NO WAY the gov. is telling ME where I can live!!!!!!

  • http://ustoday binski

    There is NO WAY the gov. is telling ME where I have to live!

    • Brian Rawls

      The second amendment gives you the right to live where you want to.

  • Eric g

    The government will rob and kill us with their land use plans . Years ago I sat near a Minnesta dam that the water pool was being lowered to protect against the possibilities of a future flood . The army coor of enginiers regulates when and how much water to release or hold . This was being done about 10 days before the missisipi was to reach peak flood stage further south . Another fellow asked me when do think this water will get there ? I estimated about 10 days . Than he replied if the flood victims saw this dam they would kill somebody .
    I said yes maybe there are many dams ,the government is draining right now . So I concluded this is government flood controle alright . If I was running the dam I would have gambled and held all the water up here I could hold .
    untill the crisses was over . Somehow common sense allways seems to get lost ,when government rules have to be obeyed .

  • Eric g

    The above flood story , makes me generally favor less government . water is always a problem , either to much or to little . This is one of the places government should be involved . But the victims have to little to say about what going on .

  • Gerry

    Of course their way is the most expensive way. Higher densities produce higher crime, which produces more costs for police and fire departments. The more police and firemen the more lieutenants and captains, which makes for higher retirement costs. there are also more deputies and higher administration costs as well.
    I once pointed out to the mayor of my city that his proposal to eleiminate “dead ends and culldesacs to allow greater ‘access’ for ‘emergency’ vehicles has been shown to dramatically increase crime. By limiting access to residential neighborhoods you naturally increase the ability of those in the neiborhoods to know their neighbors and keep tarack of who is coming and going. This has a natural crime reduction effect. They also ignore the fact that housing cost go up in relation to density. For example in the 1970s when the “urban renewal” idea was in full swing the average 2 bedroom apartment costed $32,000 to make in the private sector, the average single family home costed $50,000 and the average 1 bedroom HUD project apartment costed $80,000. Most of the HUD apartments didn’t even last 10 years before going into an advanced state of decay.

    I personally believe in protecting open space. Each home having 40 acres seems reasonable.

    In fact by eliminating high density you can eliminate the costs of water and sewage as everyone would have sufficient land to provide well water and septic systems.

  • http://arthurjbryant@sbcglobal.net Arthur J. Bryant

    Gerry: I was not disturbed by your denial of the $1500 gold price. I was slightly pleased. I remembered it at about a $1000 high but recently saw a graph with a very short peak that high. I thought it might be a one day or one week odd spurt.

    I suspect you support dollar value being pegged to gold. I am not sure because any item can have unexpected variations such as huge discoveries of deposits of gold. But it would eliminate the inflation resulting from printing press money.

    I do object to calling a speculation an investment. An investment pays in increase in itself. It may be interest, dividends, or increase in holdings per share. A speculation is a purchase with the hope of selling at a higher price to somebody not as smart as you or greatly requiring the subject holding.

    Gold has exchanged at prices in our money well above and well below prices seen later. Thus it can be a good speculation, or a bad speculation. Because dollars tend to decline in purchasing power because of inflation, speculating in gold is likely to produce more dollars than less, but not always. Even then, do the dollars so obtained have enough new purchasing power to make your gold speulation worthwhile?

    Back in the early 1930s one could buy a one scoop ice cream cone for five cents, a good pair of shoes for $2.00, a loaf of bread for fifteen cents, and gold for $35.00 ( before holding gold money became illegal and gold certificates used as money had to be turned in or you faced prison). Gold recently has been in the $300 to $1000 price range. Using $750 versus $35 this is 21 times as high. If you can now get a loaf of bread at $3.21 you have broken even holding gold, BUT with zero increase in real value, only holding value with no real return three quarters of a century later.

    By contrast I recently made a study in which from 1960 to 2006 one earning exactly the income of a Social Security participant, investing a specified percentage of the income in the Standard and Poor 500, and reinvesting dividends thereof at the price at the end of the following year, would have ended with a value representing an 11.2 per cent annual compound rate of return on his investment. Reduce this by the inflation rate and the real return may be down around eight par cent, but it it well above the real zero return from holding gold.

  • L. Facey

    There is NO way anyone is telling me where I am going to live. I will NEVER live in a city. I prefer living on a farm and anyone who comes to make me move, had better come armed.

    • Jo Dirt

      Right arm! You’re a tru patryot!

    • Donna

      I’m with you. I think the governments ideal society would be to have everyone working for them, living in their little cubicles where they can watch you, and most likely hear you, too.
      Remember the book, 1984?

  • shanem66

    I believe that we are only seeing the tip of the governments involvement . The economy a created situation, I mean the price of gold, or bread for that matter, is a matter of speculation by men borne into power who change our laws use all for their own for personal gains , remember outsourcing of American jobs by our own leaders is the real reason the Chinese economy and every other third world country where the american dream was divided up by greedy corporations, deception of the american people we as a country are going to lose a thing more valuable than gold. Our constitutional rights are being stolen in the congress and the senate as we speak by men we elect who are the biggest group of political posers (leaders who care nothing for the average man . Revolution is starting to look like a possibility. Especially with Obama, the ultimate pitch man! just not for the american people

  • mike

    What is it with socailists? They always think their way never fails or its always something new that didn’t work the last time they tried it? I hope americans never forget freedom! Without it we have nothing. God gives us the right to be free.

  • Madeleine

    I’ve been trying to buy a house for 10 years but when I hear all of the things the Govenrment and the UN want to do to us I get cold feet. I had a house here in Illinois and sold it, I wanted to go back East, when I got there it was so crowded and so many new immigrants that I just couldn’t find a place I could afford. I wasn’t paying the prices they were asking for houses that were considered dumps when I was a kid and are still dumps. I missed the suburbs and my nice house and I came back to Illinois. Now the UN is going to move in , thanks to Obama, and tell us where we can live. I have even heard that we are not going to be allowed ot have a garden. I can’t eat the Monsanto garbage so what am I to do? There is to be no home ownership, oh you can own a home, same price but the property is not yours, who would buy a house like that? I wake up in the morning and wonder where I am living, I’ve got my game face on and like some others, there will be a lot of fur flying if they try to keep me from growing my own food. As for Gold, if they made it illegal to own it in the past what makes people think we would be allowed to keep it this time around? I would hate to invest in Gold and have it confiscated. They are now selling normal organic seeds that you can keep indefinitely, 128.00 for a package of an acres worth of seeds, great but where do we plant them? How long would a garden full of fresh food last when people will be starving? I’ve never seen anything like this and I’ve been around awhile. Why is Obama and why was Bush telling eveyone they want to see everyone have a home when that is not the plan? I will not answer to the UN, they are not elected officials, they are not even Americans and anti American at that, why would anyone listen to them?. I can’t recall them doing one good thing in their corrupt lives except ask everyone for help. This really stinks.

  • Nina

    All of this is leading to a revolution, whether it is political or bloody. The liberal Obama administration is underestimating patriotic Americans. As much as we see these socialistic leanings everyday also note the states and grassroot efforts coming from the people of America (not including illegals). As we watch our country fall apart we must remember his term is limited and the wild eyed liberals will have a hard time gettin votes when society says “Enough”.

  • Rhonda

    Every step closer to total control of our every move by this administration is causing the people to come that much closer to throwing them all out, literally.

  • HP

    emphasized testrong textxt ShaneM66 I believe you have gotten it pretty much figgured out.I am an old man, I grew up in the ’50′s. That was a good era.We didn;t have all these social problems that we have now.We did have segregation of the races, which got fixed in 1964.The white man has been wrongly ridiculed for supposedly not granting equal rights to everyone,& some of that criticism is perhaps justified,but we live in a great country where the white man may have caused a lot of injustice,but have also done much to correct the injusticies.Now we have know-it-all Leftist,social engineers who wants to turn this country into a socialist society,& give up our sovreignty to the UN.I just believe we are headed down the wrong path.All this bail-out money,all the government take-overs.Gov. is no longer by the people,for the people. It is by the politicians,for the union bosses, politicians & speacial interest groups who can pay millions to lobbyists to represent them in congress.I am sick of the, that is why in 2010 I will be voting to throw them out.We do not need 23 czars in gov. making policies,who are only accountable to the Pres.not elected,but selected.I do not like the CHANGE I see, I do not like the HOPE Pres. Obama, Pelosi,Ried,Franks,& most of the other ultra-liberal democrats are bringing to this country.I want my country back.

  • s c

    It bothers me that these quasi-enlightened, cradle-to-grave ‘rights’ pushers don’t seem to care about using that thing that sets on top of their shoulders. I refuse to believe that my life will be better if I don’t ever think. Why should I let myself be stupid enough to agree with everything these ‘leaders’ barf out of their mouths? I’d be happy to make
    some suggestions where these ‘leaders’ can and can’t live. They won’t like it, but
    they must be forced to practice everything they preach.
    Until or unless they make it a habit, the north and south poles will be perfect retirement havens for retired ‘leaders.’

    • Granny Mae

      S C,

      I sure do agree with you on this one ! It is sad to think that from this day forward we are going to have to be watching our government like big brother in reverse ! North and South pole sound good to me !

  • don’t worry be happy

    One of the reasons you see governments try to stop the spread of small acreages and hobby farms is the realestate/mortgage lobby. They have a vested interest in steering people towards their developments and keep them out of the rural areas.

    Urban leaders of course like it as well as it increases the tax base and justifies more federal subsidies for the other parasitic organizations like fire, ambulance,law enforcement ect.

    The growth of government strictly for government benefit is a result of Statism. Statist logic is the backbone socialism, communism and fascism. Fear is the rally point for policy making whether it be Y2K, global warming, terrorism, flu pandemic, immigration, economic meltdown or any other means of focusing public opinion and surrendering more individual liberty.

    Unless we recognize what causes the unchecked growth of statism we cannot fight it. Most government agencies truly believe they act in the best interest of society which makes it all the more difficult to resist their effort or even question the utility and fuction of their departments.

  • Robert

    Don’t we all wish we could live in beautiful downtown sunny Detroit? I know Barack does and since he was elected the democratics have been saying that the American voters gave them these mandates. I didn’t realize how much I want to live in Detroit. To those living in rural areas or farms, it’s your patiotic duty to move to Detroit. I think they have a baseball team, so what else do you want? Oh yeah, a job. Now that might be a problem.

  • Carroll Sather

    Well, looks like the U.N.’s Agenda 21 is alive and well in Obama’s world. Here comes Sustainable Land Development, now promoted by Obama and his gang. Why not? It falls in line with all his other Socialist Agenda’s.

  • L.J.

    IF the government gets away with it, then it will be for the purpose of CONTROL! And from what I have heard, the U.S. government (Obama ET AL) are in collusion with the one world government groups to DEPOPULATE the earth by BILLIONS! If you don;t believe me, just dig up some of the comments form Obama’s illegally appointed czars. I live waaaaaay out in the country and it’s going to stay that way over my dead body!

  • Judy

    Q. Is this one of the l0 pillars of the Comm. Manifest?

  • Earl

    Our Government is working sooo hard to advance socialism and grow us and sife us as wheat.

    Sure hope my high rise Apt. is on the 13th floor when they move me.

  • http://educatingwithpurpose.com Vern Thompson

    It is so disturbing to realize that such foolishness can even be considered much less survive committee review and be presented as potential legislation. I can only hope my representatives can stall this until after the November votes.

  • James

    Much of this I agree with, and the data supports most of it. However, you do not mention the infrastructure costs that are distributed to all while the benefits acrue only to some. Sewer treatment is but one example. The suburbs usualy tie into the system of the larger city they outlie, but everyone has to pay the cost of extending the lines and increeasing the capacity of the system. The same thing usually goes for roads, which largely serve only those who live in those suburbs. But if you check and see who gets to pay for them, most of that expense comes from state and county transportation funds, which all taxpayers pay into. While it is absolutely true that only a few of the smaller mass transit systems could survive without large subsidies, the true cost of living in the suburbs is hidden by these distributed expenses. There is a potentially valid argument that all of those suburbanites are paying taxes for the good of all, but I would love to see the data supporting that. I suspect that the data would show the same results as the claim that we can grow our way out of deficits. That has never happened, not even when they were claiming to do so in the later Clinton years although they got much closer than any others in the deficit years. But once the tech bubble came down to earth, it was same-old, same-old, unsustainable government.

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