Endorsing the City

For anyone interested in seeing a reurbanization of the American landscape, Stanley Kurtz's recent OP/ED in Forbes Magazine "How Obama Is Robbing The Suburbs To Pay For The Cities" is a ringing endorsement of President Obama's reelection campaign:
Once voters realize that there has never been a president more ideologically opposed to the suburbs, or more reliant on redistribution as a policy, they should know what to do.
As with most ink spilled opposite the editorial page, the piece is tragically empty of facts supporting these pie-in-the-sky, would-be campaign promises like:

  • "an initiative to systematically redistribute the wealth of America’s suburbs to the cities"
  • "policies designed to coerce people out of their cars"
  • "take from the suburbanites to give to the urban poor"
  • "quit building sub-divisions and malls"

Too bad for Obama! Having your staunchest ideological enemies talking up your political prowess and mastery of urban planning is the kind of get Democrats rarely luck into under their own steam. When was the last time any Democrat promised a platform so boldly progressive, or any of their constituents believed those promises as passionately as Mr. Kurtz believes in Obama?

But enough about the professionally outraged class, the bizarre sense of entitlement they hold so dear, and their world-class ability to theorize conspiracies. What's so great about the cities? After all, as Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissmann point out in a recent article for The New Republic "The Cheapest Generation", cities seem to be responsible for an entire generation of Americans abandoning the endless business cycles of the disposable auto, hotel, and fashion industries:
The emergence of the “sharing economy”—services that use the Web to let companies and families share otherwise idle goods—is headlined by Zipcar, but it also involves companies such as Airbnb, a shared market­place for bedrooms and other accommodations for travelers; and thred­UP, a site where parents can buy and sell kids’ used clothing.
And don't even get them started about what these selfishly possessionless Millenials are doing to the real estate industry!
If the Millennials are not quite a post-­driving and post-owning generation, they’ll almost certainly be a less-­driving and less-­owning generation. That could mean some tough adjustments for the economy over the next several years. In recent decades, the housing industry has usually led us out of recession. When the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates in the midst of the sharp recession of the early 1980s, for instance, a construction boom helped fuel the “Reagan Recovery.” With the housing market moribund, the Federal Reserve has lost a key means of influencing the economy with lower interest rates. The service-led recovery we’ve gotten instead is not nearly as robust.
Damn you kids, buy my lawn! After all, the construction boom that fueled the GOP's dreams of an "ownership society" and the financial sector's love affair with sub-prime real estate markets didn't cause our current Great Recession, it simply provided the majority of the air released from the bubble that preceded it. So if they aren't going to buy the cars or prop up the next housing bubble, er, market, how does this new generation plan to feed the financial sector's endless need for lightly taxed capital gains?

Economic research shows that doubling a community’s population density tends to increase productivity by anywhere between 6 percent and 28 percent. Economists have found that more than half of the variation in output per worker across U.S. states can be explained by density. Our wealth, after all, is determined not only by our own skills and talents, but by our ability to access the ideas of those around us; there’s a lot to be gained by increasing the odds that smart people might bump against each other. Ultimately, if the Millennial generation pushes our society toward more sharing and closer living, it may do more than simply change America’s consumption culture; it may put America on firmer economic footing for decades to come.
As Mr. Kurtz says, you "should know what to do."

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