President Obama’s New Plan to Decide Where Americans Live and How They Travel

Ronald Utt, Ph.D.
Heritage.org
4/14/2009

President Barack Obama’s early comments on his opposition to suburban sprawl and his intention to alter the way Americans live and travel took a step closer to reality when he created an interdepartmental initiative on housing and transportation costs. [1] A March press release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new interagency partnership to create “affordable, sustainable communities.” [2] 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,” and

• Require even more planning by the many federally funded regional planning entities that are already attempting to guide Americans toward a suppos­edly better life.

Rich in the sort of progressive euphemisms used to mask real intentions, the press release heralds a process that could likely lead to an unprecedented federal effort to force Americans into an antiquated lifestyle that was common to the early years of the previous century. More specifically, these initiatives reflect an escalation in what is shaping up as President Obama’s apparent intent to re-energize and lead the Left’s longstanding war against America’s suburbs..

…the proposal 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. Nonetheless, and ever the optimist, the President proposes that the existing regional planning authorities be given yet more responsibility–and power.

At present, 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 (MPOs) to develop Long-Range Transporta­tion Plans and four-year Transportation Improve­ment Programs. Despite billions of dollars of spending on these entities, all of this costly planning coincided with what many believe has been one of the worst housing and transportation environments in U.S. history. Over the past decade, housing became less affordable than ever, and this has con­tributed to the most severe housing recession since the Great Depression. While all of the MPOs were huffing and puffing away on their little transporta­tion plans, traffic congestion continued to worsen, and the quality of the transportation infrastructure continued to decline, despite record federal and state transportation spending on both.

Nonetheless, having failed separately to come anywhere close to performing the straightforward tasks assigned to them, the White House proposes that these two forms of planning initiatives be combined in a cooperative partnership, and that they be given even more responsibility and greater control over living and travel policies for the American people…

Read the entire article at Heritage.org

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