The root cause is government.
In the city of Pittsburgh ; in the name of "eminent domain" properties
have been condemed so mom and pop businesses could be pushed out of the
way so the city could give the land and probably a hefty tax break to a
well known food processer. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Pittsburgh and virtually all local governments have a ravenous appetite
for revinue and to them taxpayers- ie businesses or home owners are
nothing more than cash cows to be milked in order to sustain expensive
bureaucracies and projects like stadiums and other public works projects
often foisted upon the body politic whether or not the people care to
pay for them. The federal government - which by the way is responsible
for fueling the sprawl that blights much of the mid-atlantic region is
the same thing on an even greater scale.
So what do you do when you can no longer put up with paying more and
more to support a city government that consistently fails to provide the
quality of services that you are paying for? If you have the means, you
pull up your roots and move somewhere else and let them worry about how
they are going to deal with less revinue. As it was noted about the
situation in Ohio earlier - also true for Pennsylvania- this trend is
not based on population growth, but a population shift (we too are
loosing population overall statewide) from the urban centers to the
countryside. And driving this shift is the desire of people to escape
from what they cannot tollerate and don't have the desire to stay and
The only problem is that we are running out of places to run to and the
problem keeps following us wherever we go.
Since the root of the problem is obviously government at all levels, the
obvious solution is to start cleaning up the government at all levels.
Term limits to bust up and prevent politicians from building powerful
coalitions with big corporations and other special interests.
Tax reform. The tax codes are where the politicians hide their favors to
special interests. "Contribute to my campaign and I'll change the laws
or give you a tax break that will help you get ahead". So much for the
Constitution that said taxes must be fair and uniform. Also the cost of
the services that government provides us with grow at a rate something
like 3 times the rate of inflation. No wonder people bail out whenever
In Pennsylvania there is a big debate raging over the issue of rising
property taxes. It's no doubt a pre-election shell game which like most
such shell games is a matter of finding out which shell the politicians
can tax and still get re-elected. I've often though about what a great
mechanism that property taxes are for local governments that are hungry
for revinue to aquire properties so they can turn around and give them
to developers or big corporations who will bring growth so the
politicians can then brag about how many jobs they created and how much
they have increased the tax base. Again you see the arrogance of public
officials who think taxpayers are just cattle to be milked for their
benefit. The term "public servant" is definitely a misnomer.
If you've ever thought it all out- centralized bureaucracies are not so
necessary anymore and dependence on them is more a liability than an
asset. Decision making should be delegated to the lowest possible level
and free market alternatives to government provided services should be
allowed . Then, people can decide what is best locally because they not
only have their hearts in it and better hand on solving their own
problems but also they are not as removed from the consequences of their
decisions as are remote decision makers.
Just think how much "growth for growth's sake" could be prevented if
citizens ever get together and abolish property taxes. And "eminent
domain". Even people with limited or fixed incomes could hang onto
sizable acerages - using only a small portion for their homestead
leaving the remainder for wildlife. There would be no pressure to sell
to developers. They could even post it and put up fencing to keep out
the kind of rif raff that trashed Swine Creek and other places. Private
property can be a relyable institution for protecting the environment
because it limits access while public lands are open and can be prone to
Just think how many community based businesses would be on better
footing if we got rid of corporate welfare and other special favors. And
taxes again- Pennsylvania is hailed as one of the worst states to die in
because the death tax is so high. Plus there's a federal tax on
inheritance as well. Small businesses and farms, even profitable ones
fail simply because they must be liquidated to pay the tax- because
sometime back in the early industrial period it was decided that capital
accumulation from one generation to the next was unfair - we have Karl
Marx to thank for that one. Yet somehow the big players always manage to
get around the rules. Bigger businesses are better able to redistribute
the costs of regulation plus they get all the special favors that the
little guy not only can't get but also is forced to pay for!
Just immagine how much better rivers like the Tar and Neuse and many
others would be if the people doing all the polluting couldn't get farm
subsidies. A farm is far from sustainable if it must rely on the
government for handouts and grants of immunity from angry neighbors who
complain about the smell and pollution of rivers and ground water. And
what about people who build in disaster prone and often ecologically
sensitive floodplains and coastal areas? Taxpayers are always bailing
out property owners on barrier islands. Florida has an especially
tyrannical system that forces higher insurance premiums on policy
holders who live inland to subsidize those on the coasts!
Have you ever wondered what the region around Washington DC might look
like had it not been for the rampant growth of the federal workforce
which has to be housed and provided with transportation and other
necessities of life all over Maryland and Northern Virginia? Washington
and Arlington would probably be a couple of moderate sized towns along a
sleepy Potomac and much of the surrounding region would still be largely
agrarian or forest.
It's probably too late to undo much of that mess, but the spread of
urbanization around our nation's capital over the last 100 years does
highlight the true cause of urban blight.
Instead of blaming Walmart - maybe we ought to concentrate on putting an
end to government sprawl!
"Government is the servant of the wealthy and powerful, but
masquerades as the friend of the little guyn.
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