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Author Topic: "Break Up the Liberal City"  (Read 834 times)
publicunofficial
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« on: March 26, 2017, 02:40:25 pm »
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Interesting op-ed from Ross Douthat of the NYT.

Following up recent proposals by Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Matthew Yglesias of Vox to move government agencies away from DC and to other communities instead, Douthat takes it a step further:

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We should treat liberal cities the way liberals treat corporate monopolies — not as growth-enhancing assets, but as trusts that concentrate wealth and power and conspire against the public good. And instead of trying to make them a little more egalitarian with looser zoning rules and more affordable housing, we should make like Teddy Roosevelt and try to break them up.

General ideas proposed in the column:

-Move various government agencies (Regulatory bodies, various health and science administrations) to cities in need of revitalization like Cleveland, Detroit, or Milwaukee.

-Tax the endowments of large universities heavily, and offer exemptions for schools that open up satellite campuses in areas with below average median incomes (An MIT branch in Flint, a Stanford campus in Buffalo, ect.)

-Non-profits are only given a full tax exemption if they show that they are employing workers from low-income states and cities.

-Tax credits for businesses that open up in struggling areas.

-State and local tax deductions capped, ideally forcing upper class residents to move away from cities and suburbs with high costs of living + high tax rates.

-Change the FTC mandate so that it considers geographical concentration as a form of indication of monopoly.

-Expand PBS's funding for smaller, local public radio stations.

-Create a new Corporation for Local News, dedicated to funding small-town newspapers, and fund it with a surtax on large media corporations based in DC and NYC.

Douthat himself calls his proposal far-fetched and implausible. But I'm honestly not seeing a lot of flaws in this idea. Thoughts?
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« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2017, 07:46:10 pm »
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I support most of these, yeah.
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2017, 09:56:20 pm »
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I don't really see any of this happening, but I like the idea of spreading out government agencies.
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« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2017, 01:50:28 am »
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I used to believe that DC was too centralized, but now I've come to oppose efforts at decentralization. DC is in fact to small, and far too limited for the role it should take on in federal governance and in the nature of America's consciousness.

And many cities already have urban universities (Buffalo, Houston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Denver, etc.). With the exception of Pitt, they tend to be commuter campuses not really engaged in either high-profile research (which draws in federal grants that the GOP will cut in any case) or are too strapped (commuters make for a poor alumni donor base) for much community involvement. That can be reversed with increased state funding for public universities, but that doesn't fit Douthat's thesis.

The other proposals sound like even more federal subsidization of sunbelt suburban sprawl.

As for the media being concentrated by a coastal clique, a better idea would be to (re)instate FCC rules to make news agencies report news -- factual events documented by eyewitnesses and credible sources and recounted by impartial journalists -- and suppress editorialization and marketeering by fining offending outlets (to oblivion). That can be done just as well from DC, but that wouldn't support Douthat's intention to make the US even more primitive and decentralized.
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« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2017, 03:47:08 am »
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Great Idea!
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DC Al Fine
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« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2017, 05:32:32 am »
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I like the whole series he's been doing on unrealistic proposals to shake things up. I particularly like the idea of taxing endowments. Harvard is practically a hedge fund with a side business running a university these days Tongue
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sjoyce
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« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2017, 08:40:19 am »
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-Tax the endowments of large universities heavily, and offer exemptions for schools that open up satellite campuses in areas with below average median incomes (An MIT branch in Flint, a Stanford campus in Buffalo, ect.)
I go to a wealthy college on the South Side of Chicago and yeah that doesn't work.
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« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2017, 10:00:14 am »
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-Tax the endowments of large universities heavily, and offer exemptions for schools that open up satellite campuses in areas with below average median incomes (An MIT branch in Flint, a Stanford campus in Buffalo, ect.)
I go to a wealthy college on the South Side of Chicago and yeah that doesn't work.
What's the issue with it?
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« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2017, 11:44:12 am »
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The fact that the flower of our youth have been reduced to a desperate scramble to make it into one of a few urban areas in order to have any chance at socioeconomic success is one of the most horrible things about contemporary America, so even though a lot of Douthat's proposals seem unworkable or like bad ideas I'm glad he's at least addressing this.
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2017, 12:19:35 pm »
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-Tax the endowments of large universities heavily, and offer exemptions for schools that open up satellite campuses in areas with below average median incomes (An MIT branch in Flint, a Stanford campus in Buffalo, ect.)
I go to a wealthy college on the South Side of Chicago and yeah that doesn't work.
What's the issue with it?

I was a bit confused by this at first, but I think ultimately SJoyce's point was that there are few, if any, good jobs coming to locals, elite schools with sizable endowments like these are not moving there to begin accepting members of poorer communities en masse and that the high-income individuals brought in for the intellectual positions will not spend any free time in the local community but will locate into an established, wealthy part of the city, commute and leave with very limited benefits for the intended beneficiaries from this policy. I think the benefits of this type of arrangement would be chiefly that students already going there do tend to have some attachment to the local community and take pride in serving it in many ways as time permits, but ultimately, these people are likely taking on debt as is and do not have incomes so there is only so much they could add to the actual economy beyond 'doing good'. So in sum, capital spending will have serious limits for exclusionary reasons and in urban metros, the vast amount of consumption will not take place in the community.

Education has proven to be a solid tool for certain small cities (smaller than Buffalo) and more rural areas where it exists and people spend time in the community, but the education market (especially for graduate professional degrees) seems pretty saturated as is so using this for a non-established brand name obviously has to be done with an abundance of caution and backing - California or maybe even Texas could probably do so successfully if they were willing to provide the resources for a school to be competitive but this is not all that feasible in some places, and I don't know why a closed off private school would want to partake in this. Giving the (dis)incentive for ultimately so few benefits does not seem like a wise strategy.

Since Buffalo was explicitly mentioned, why no focus on actually developing the university that is actually there and turning it into one of those very strong publics as has been intended for so long (and seems to be in progress). What added benefit would a Stanford bring (and who would willingly locate to Stanford at Buffalo) that a state aided effort would not have? Just invest in our public schools already! Ultimately with a school like a better funded Buffalo (in conjunction with a broader reaching public nearby), you actually get people tied into the local community. The opposite proposal attracts people looking for a short-cut.

[Surely that drifted into nothing to do with the article at hand XD hopefully mildly on topic]
« Last Edit: March 27, 2017, 12:27:37 pm by Sprouts Farmers Market ✘ »Logged

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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2017, 01:31:48 pm »
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I like the idea, but their rationale is entirely flawed.
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DC Al Fine
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2017, 03:45:17 pm »
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-Tax the endowments of large universities heavily, and offer exemptions for schools that open up satellite campuses in areas with below average median incomes (An MIT branch in Flint, a Stanford campus in Buffalo, ect.)
I go to a wealthy college on the South Side of Chicago and yeah that doesn't work.
What's the issue with it?

I was a bit confused by this at first, but I think ultimately SJoyce's point was that there are few, if any, good jobs coming to locals, elite schools with sizable endowments like these are not moving there to begin accepting members of poorer communities en masse and that the high-income individuals brought in for the intellectual positions will not spend any free time in the local community but will locate into an established, wealthy part of the city, commute and leave with very limited benefits for the intended beneficiaries from this policy. I think the benefits of this type of arrangement would be chiefly that students already going there do tend to have some attachment to the local community and take pride in serving it in many ways as time permits, but ultimately, these people are likely taking on debt as is and do not have incomes so there is only so much they could add to the actual economy beyond 'doing good'. So in sum, capital spending will have serious limits for exclusionary reasons and in urban metros, the vast amount of consumption will not take place in the community.

Is that a misreading of Douthat's argument? Chicago would be one of those choice metro areas that's racing ahead of the rest. His argument seems to apply more to stagnant mid size metros than poor parts of prosperous cities.

It's a lot harder to not spend your money in Jacksonville or Buffalo than a particular part of a major city.
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2017, 04:12:23 pm »
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Yes, I realized that by the end of my post so I tried to adjust to merely addressing SJoyce's Chicago point on the first paragraph and made it more explicitly clear why exactly privates with billion dollar endowments specifically doing what the author suggests is the issue at the end. It absolutely makes sense as part of a state-guided effort, but no one serious is going to go to Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Flint Campus. Privates branching out would be the change that would turn even reputable higher education organizations into a total scam and really push the student debt crisis to the limit. You get a lot of negatives with none of the gain. That's why I say, build and grow SUNY Buffalo into a flagship and a research center of the northeast. It makes little sense to bring in private industry to do it as their goals are very different. Threatening to tax endowments so people take out gigantic loans for a school with middling prospects is not a solution for a few isolated rural economies. It seems to be an obvious net negative for everyone but the college (which only faces brand risks that some will find a way to sneak around) as private industry swoops in like a robber, both keeping its endowment and reaping tuition, rather than having the intended effect of (ideally affordable) education for the local community and/or economic development.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 10:04:20 am by Sprouts Farmers Market ✘ »Logged

20:41   Classic   I think we need to abort any babies with autism so we won't end up with more people like smilo in our society

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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2017, 10:33:34 pm »
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I like the idea, but their rationale is entirely flawed.
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Filuwaúrdjan
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« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2017, 07:55:49 am »
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]Interesting op-ed from Ross Douthat...

Statistically very unlikely.
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« Reply #15 on: March 28, 2017, 08:34:02 am »
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A couple of relevant facts:

(1) The land underneath much of DC is experiencing a "forebulge collapse" and will sink at least six inches over the next century.
(2) The Chesapeake Bay is experiencing a faster rate of sea level rise than any other location on the US Atlantic Coast.

Give this problem a few decades, and it may solve itself.
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sjoyce
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« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2017, 09:53:08 am »
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The problem is that wealthy universities tend to reshape the environment immediately around them while having little effect on the broader community. As Smilo mentioned, while a few members of the local community would be able to find jobs, most of those jobs are minimum-wage service-sector jobs. The upper-income faculty and administrative jobs would overwhelmingly go to individuals hired from elsewhere, and student spending generally does not extend to benefiting those outside the immediate neighborhood around the university.

Chicago, at least, has had little effect on communities outside of the “usual boundaries” (stay north of 63rd, south of 47th, west of Cottage). Students attempt to fulfill their needs within the neighborhood immediately surrounding the university, and by and large are successful in doing so—there are bookstores, restaurants, a couple grocery stores, a Target, a couple pharmacies, and what else do you need? Students venture downtown sometimes, for shopping and entertainment, but the city outside the Hyde Park bubble is not something the student body or the university as an institution engages with daily—when they do it’s with (white, wealthy) people in the Loop and on the North Side, not Englewood or Austin. The recently constructed trauma center is probably the most notable exception to this general rule, but then again the fact that the university had to be targeted by a prolonged public campaign to re-open the part of the hospital meant to deal with gun violence victims (cut for financial reasons) also speaks to the university’s attitudes about the surrounding communities.

I’m speaking about Chicago and not smaller metros because I don’t know enough about the specific development strategies there to speak about them definitively, but Yale in New Haven and Tulane in New Orleans, to take two examples of private universities located in mid-sized cities, don’t seem to have generated significant benefits for the smaller-sized metros they’ve been located in for similar reasons to those that have limited Chicago.

It’s also worth noting that “MIT-Flint” already exists—Flint has both a branch campus of a prestigious university (UM-Flint) and is home to a prestigious private engineering school (Kettering). Not sure what Douthat envisions MIT-Flint as bringing that doesn’t exist already, beyond just another campus.
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