Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Columnist: Government's rural bias hurts cities

Do rural areas get an unfair level of federal support, to the detriment of the nation's cities? That's the argument made by one public-policy researcher. "The farm and the frontier might still retain their influence over the American imagination," Harry Moroz, a research associate at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, writes for the San Francisco Chronicle. "But there is little left to legitimize the myth of rural America: The United States is decidedly urban; the concentration of economic activity in cities will drive our future growth and prosperity."

Moroz says cities have been demonized throughout American history, resulting in a "federal government that functions at a distance from the places responsible for 90 percent of the country's economic activity," and cites the distribution of transportation funds. "Washington funnels transportation funds through state governments dominated by rural lawmakers who favor projects in areas where, one mayor recently quipped, there are more deer than people," Moroz writes. "Tack on a prejudice against public transit in the formula grant that distributes federal transportation funds, and you begin to see why the United States is paved haphazardly with highways instead of interconnected with subways and high-speed rail."

The anti-urban bias was further exacerbated by the economic stimulus package, Moroz writes, despite President Obama's Chicago roots. The law "assigned cities control over less than 1 percent of funds and disregarded 19,000 shovel-ready infrastructure projects proposed by the nation's mayors," he writes. He concludes, "The question is not whether cities will self-destruct without federal assistance: They have already proved that they can excel and innovate despite Washington. The question is whether Washington can finally dispel its anti-urban bias so that our cities realize their full potential as a crucial part of our nation." (Read more)

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