BOOK REVIEW: ‘Spreading the Wealth’

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SPREADING THE WEALTH: HOW OBAMA IS ROBBING THE SUBURBS TO PAY FOR THE CITIES
By Stanley Kurtz
Penguin Group/ Sentinel, $25.95, 221 pages

Based on its title, a reviewer might judge this book as one-dimensional. That would be a mistake.

Author Stanley Kurtz does indeed grapple with the subject matter indicated in “Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities.” However, he shows how White House social engineering links that hidden ambition to areas that at first glance may appear beyond issues inherent in a discussion of city versus suburban life.

As for the basics, the president plans to abolish the suburbs in three gradual steps: 1. Force suburban residents into densely packed cities by blocking development in the outskirts of metropolitan areas, and then discourage driving with a blizzard of taxes, fees and regulations. 2. Move the poor out of the cities by imposing low-income housing quotas. 3. Export a “regional tax-base sharing” scheme whereby a portion of the money flows into a common regional pot, “redistributed to urban and a few “less well off outer ring suburbs.”

One might think that suburbanites can fight back in the time-honored American tradition: Vote with their feet. Move elsewhere.

Alas, not so fast. The rationale for President Obama’s urban policies is laid out in the writings of an urban affairs adviser to the president’s 2008 campaign. Peter Dreier suggests the way to counteract the “vote with their feet” strategy is to “undercut freedom of movement,” as Mr. Kurtz characterizes it.

The way to accomplish that, Mr. Dreier believes, is to fetter capital mobility. Mr. Kurtz explains, “As companies are trapped, unable to move, they and their employees will have no choice but to submit to a given city’s redistributive tax-and-spending plans.” Mr. Dreier, a politics professor at Occidental College, believes blocking the mobility of capital can succeed only at the national level.

The professor-community activist is a strong supporter of the notorious ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), a group that has long backed proposals by which businesses desiring to relocate elsewhere in the United States would be required to apply for “exit visas.” The power to grant or withhold the visas would be held by “community boards,” well-staffed with ACORN acolytes, of course.

Manhattan Institute scholar Sol Stern labels that scenario “undisguised authoritarian socialism,” and adds the next logical step down the road would be to require wealthy or middle-class individuals to apply for “exit visas” before moving from city to suburb.

The recent battle between the White House and the Boeing Co. over the latter’s move from Washington state to South Carolina may have been considered a “test run” by the Obama White House.

Part of the urban or “regional equity” program is a plan to merge city and suburban school districts, all under a national system with local control effectively gone. The key figure in this phase of Mr. Obama’s plan is Linda Darling-Hammond. She was in line to become education secretary when Mr. Obama took office before word got out about her extreme left-wing views. At that point, it was believed her confirmation would encounter severe difficulties even in the new Democratic Congress.

“When it comes to education issues,” Mr. Kurtz tells us, “[terrorist] Bill Ayers and Darling-Hammond are on the same page.” Before he became president, Mr. Obama had worked with Mr. Ayers on education issues, all of which included advocacy of a “politicized curriculum.”

Mr. Kurtz argues a “national curriculum” would mean history and world affairs indoctrination through the prism of a leftist worldview combined with eventual federal takeover. In fact, Mr. Kurtz describes the whole Obama “Race to the Top” education program as an “end run” around Congress. He cites Mr. Obama’s known views on education to conclude the president is doing all this because “he’s hostile to the whole idea of testing” and “standards.”

Already, the administration has succeeded in persuading more than 40 states to sign on to the idea of a single curriculum nationwide. This apparently was sold to them through innocuously-worded “efficiency” arguments. A sense of decency and trust might lead state education leaders toward assumptions that nothing but pure intentions necessarily motivate a Washington that presents a benign-sounding program for them to consider. However, a small dose of skepticism would be in order.

Though it was not announced as such, Obamacare is also a part of the president’s overall urban plan. It includes taxes to redistribute money (apparently disproportionately) to urban areas.

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