Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Real Economic Stimulus Program

Rather than hand the banks another $1 trillion as Bernanke is demanding, and hand out hundreds of billions of dollars in additional pork barrel and make-work spending, I have a stupendous idea that would turn around our troubled cities overnight and create an entirely new reality for our urban poor and working class alike.

It is borne out of growing up in Philadelphia, where the latest big-government scheme was ALWAYS promoted as the answer. First, good old Frank Rizzo (when I was just a baby) promised prosperity and new buildings and clean streets. Then, in came Green (with his scandals). Then Wilson Goode (we all know how THAT ended).

Then Ed Rendell and his "prayer for the city." God wasn't listening.

In fact, the city that Mayor Michael Nutter presides over today has just 1.4 million residents -- and is losing 500 residents every month.

That's a HUGE decline from 2 million back in the 1950s.

And you see it in devastated neighborhoods in North, West and Southwest Philly, slowly spreading into Northeast Philly as well.

Big government programs and complicated "enterprise zone" and "special grant" politics didn't work too well back then. And they haven't worked since.

So here's my radical proposal.

Every single individual who purchases his solitary residence within the boundaries of a designated "blighted area" in any US city or town gets 20 years (or the term of his residency, whichever comes first) completely free of federal income tax.

It wasn't that long ago that Kensington and Allegheny Avenues in North Philly were the "workshop of the world," producing more manufactured goods than all of Britain. It was once said that "if you cannot get it at K and A, you cannot get it."

Houses with relatively decent restorations there go for $25,000. Shells go for $5,000. There are hundreds of abandoned homes in that neighborhood alone.

Imagine the new life and industry and money and creativity that would be brought into places like North Philly, Moraine Ohio, or bad parts of Wilmington as a result of such a policy. People willing to take a chance on a new business or a new job as a result of eliminating income tax.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely to happen. Instead, Obama will shell out trillions to super-wealthy banks in tony burghs like Manhattan, Boston and Chicago, telling the struggling taxpayers of Kensington that "sacrifice is needed."

As if they haven't sacrificed enough.

"Stimulus" will pass Kensington, Strawberry Mansion, Poplar, Mantua, Forgotten Bottom, Nicetown-Tioga, Hunting Park, Overbrook, Brewerytown, Germantown, Olney, Logan, Point Breeze, Grays Ferry, and tens of thousands of neighborhoods like them by -- for the benefit of Park Avenue, Boylston Street, and Billionaires' Row.

All because of a sad lack of vision and a religious commitment to the failed big government programs that helped bring those neighborhoods to their knees in the first place.


Anonymous said...

Excellent idea on the tax break for "blighted" areas. That would help reverse the trend of more and more people leaving the big cities. A big reason why people keep leaving the big cities is because of high taxes which makes them expensive to live in.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying the person has to live there? If not it would just remain a slumlord area. and if they have to live there, how long is sit stipulated they do so? and if they decide to leave after 1-2-3-4 years are they penalized?

Brian Miller said...

The house would have to be their primary residence to get the tax break. They'd have to prove residential bona fides, and of course, anybody who was defrauding the system would be promptly prosecuted.

If they decide to leave, they sell their house and lose the tax break when the house is sold to another individual, who then gets the remainder of the 20 year tax-free period.

For instance, if you bought a house in Kensington and lived there for three years before selling the house, the individual who buys it from you as a primary residence gets the remaining 17 years of tax-free status, or until he/she sells the house (whichever comes first).

This approach would cost a whole hell of a lot less than the $7 trillion the government has flushed down the banking toilet the last 12 months and would have a real and beneficial impact for the poor and working classes in major cities and small towns alike.

Anonymous said...

I could be living in a place called Brewerytown? Sign me up!

a most peculiar nature said...

I lived in Fishtown (which borders Kensington) for over 10 years, and am also aware of the "Enterprise Zone" so-called "program".

This program was no more than a depository for political hacks who needed a job. It did nothing real except for a few staged photo-ops and touchy-feeliness for the politicos. If anybody defrauded the system, it was them.

Power to the people !