John C. Goodman

There is a new study out with the finding that urban sprawl contributes to inequality, making it more difficult for the poor to climb the income ladder.

Okay, let's accept that idea for a moment. Why is there urban sprawl? Isn't it directly tied to liberal policies that have prevailed over the past 40 years? Federal judges and the teachers unions combined to destroy the inner city schools. So middle class families who wanted a decent education for their children had no choice but to turn to private schools or retreat to the suburbs. Then, minimum wage laws, labor monopolies and the lure of welfare made the inner city increasingly unattractive to employers seeking a productive workforce.

As the tax base shrinks and taxpaying voters disappear, city government becomes completely captured by the public sector unions. They use their power to pad their own compensation at the expense of deteriorating city services and to wrest promises of post-retirement benefits that can only be paid by an (unlikely) influx of new taxpayers. Thus starts a downward political death spiral that can only end in bankruptcy.

So what's the obvious public policy conclusion? Don't adopt policies that chase the middle class and the job creator community away. Or at least that would be obvious unless you write for The New York Times. Here is Paul Krugman, who does a decent job of describing the study's conclusions:

Atlanta looks just like Detroit gone bust: both are places where the American dream seems to be dying, where the children of the poor have great difficulty climbing the economic ladder. In fact, upward social mobility — the extent to which children manage to achieve a higher socioeconomic status than their parents — is even lower in Atlanta than it is in Detroit…

And in Atlanta poor and rich neighborhoods are far apart because, basically, everything is far apart; Atlanta is the Sultan of Sprawl, even more spread out than other major Sun Belt cities…As a result, disadvantaged workers often find themselves stranded; there may be jobs available somewhere, but they literally can't get there.

As it turns out, the sprawl theory of perpetual poverty may be completely wrong. Randal O'Toole says it won't hold water and notes that only a few years ago Krugman blamed the housing bubble on anti-sprawl policies.

John C. Goodman

John C. Goodman is President of the Goodman Institute and Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute. His books include the widely acclaimed A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America and the award-winning Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and National Journal, among other media, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts.”