Joe Biden's War on Suburbia

For 50 years environmentalists have told Americans that suburbs are bad. They are boring and conformist. There isn’t enough friction between different groups and classes to make life stimulating or spur deep thoughts. Living in single family homes, spread over large areas, is wasteful. This ruins the land. They consume too much energy. They require automobiles, which take too much energy, cause terrible pollution, and require additional roads, which are ugly, and lead to more suburbs… and so on.

So you’d think that the most woke, hard-left presidential campaign in American history would have a plan to make American cities better for those who live there, including the poor, especially at this moment when the middle class is fleeing irresponsible, profligate and unsafe urban governance, bad schools, and the density that leads to the spread of disease, like, say, Covid-19.

You'd be wrong. Last month, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his housing policy platform, to great cheers from the socialist, Bernie Sanders wing of his party. There will be no enterprise zones to foster job growth in neighborhoods where intergenerational welfare dependence is common. Instead, Joe’s plan relies on shipping the poor to those boring, energy inefficient suburbs.

The Biden policy, called AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing), is couched in terms of racial "fairness." In fact, it is a radical plan that would crush the ability of American citizens to choose what kind of community in which to live. It would destroy the attributes that make the suburbs the destination of choice for 52% of Americans. We know this because the policy is not new. AFFH was widely imposed, and somewhat less widely implemented, during the Obama administration, by radical Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) is a legal requirement that federal agencies and federal grantees further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act. This obligation to affirmatively further fair housing has been in the Fair Housing Act since 1968 (for further information see Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. 3608 and Executive Order 12892). HUD's AFFH rule provides an effective planning approach to aid program participants in taking meaningful actions to overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination.

As provided in the rule, AFFH means "taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics. Specifically, affirmatively furthering fair housing means taking meaningful actions that, taken together, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws. The duty to affirmatively further fair housing extends to all of a program participant's activities and programs relating to housing and urban development."

The nut of AFFH is a redefinition of the longstanding definition of “fair housing.” Traditionally that term meant no discrimination by race, sex, or other unalterable human attributes. The Obama Administration, by fiat, decided that “fair housing” would henceforth include economic class, as if civil rights for African Americans is synonymous with access to live in places that individuals cannot pay for. So, if not many people of a certain ethnic group live in a certain suburb, either because they cannot afford it, or they prefer somewhere else, that demonstrates racial discrimination. The remedy is forced integration by means of building low income and Section 8 housing for the poor and very poor, with an eye on creating a racial mix too.

The unspoken, because obvious, nature of American suburban life, is that people gravitate to places with other people who share their values. Those include safety; quality of schools; access to appropriate job markets; proximity to particular religious and cultural institutions; and social comfort. Most Americans, of all races, say that their priority is finding the best quality of public education they can afford.

Because suburban housing is allocated by the market – what can you afford to pay? – neighbors have a comparable stake in preserving the schools, the environment, and other goods. This is codified in local zoning laws, designed by local representatives, to create or preserve a town’s density, leafiness, school quality, and nature and location of commercial strips. It is not an overstatement to say that the Biden policy literally decimates each mechanism for preservation of local character. In the process it severely mitigates freedom of association, and, property rights as we have known them.

How?

Land in those leafy suburbs with zoning for one-acre lots, and homes starting in the mid-six figures, is way too expensive on which to build taxpayer funded housing. Which means that local zoning laws cannot stand. So local control cedes to federal mandates. Then HUD requires your town to build high density apartments to house people with half or less the local median income. Coming from urban projects, they usually don’t have cars. Now your town needs public transportation. It needs a denser commercial area, so people can shop without cars. The schools will have to spend money on programs to accommodate children with different educational needs. You need a bigger police force, because studies show that crime follows Section 8 housing. Et voila: your community is quasi-urban; the value of your property is down; and your taxes are higher, because you are now obligated to pay for the needs of your new neighbors.

Why?

As the middle class has been pushed out of many cities, leaving behind the very wealthy and the poor, urban tax bases have shrunk. Urban/poverty policy types want to send the poor to middle and upper middle-class suburbs, because that’s where the money is. They want access to the suburban tax base, to fund the ever-growing list of quasi-socialist demands, to provide luxuries in the name of "fairness," whether or not people have earned it.

While they’re at it, Democrats are happy to destroy the culture of individualism fostered by one family, one house. People who earn their way into better communities often vote Republican. Low-income people in high rises, dependent on public transportation, want different things from government. It’s not an accident that they are importing enough Democrats to change suburban political outcomes.

Why does an energy website care about this issue?

The Biden housing policy it is a clear example of how the left, working through issue organizations, and ultimately through Democratic administrations, will use any excuse – any real or imagined social and cultural problem—to steer this country towards socialism. Fifty years of stated environmental policy, based on energy concerns, pollution, and efficiency, are tossed the instant a plan to federalize the suburbs appears.

Funny thing: the Democrats have not changed their stated views on the harm to the environment caused by cars and suburbs. Candidate Biden’s energy policy, released this past week, allots $2 trillion to avert the destruction of the planet by getting rid of carbon emissions, building higher density communities, and lots of new public transportation. Even if no one wants to live in cities. So they push endless spending, destruction of the communities citizens have created organically, and ever-increasing federal control of every aspect of how Americans live, while forcing the struggling middle class to pay for those who, for whatever reason, cannot earn their way up the ladder.

Because it’s never about what they say. It’s about accruing power, by destroying individual rights.

With US Election Looming, Whither Fracking?

Fracking has become a hot-button issue on the Left, and for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's good for the American economy, so right off the bat it's bad. For another, it has something to do with icky fossil fuel extraction -- a messy business involving melted dinosaur juice that no right-thinking Harvard grad would want to get involved with. For another, it's the brutal rape of almost virginal Mother Gaia; if there's one thing the Left embraces wholeheartedly it's the pathetic fallacy, which attributes human emotions to inanimate or insentient objects.

The Democrats, naturally, object to fracking because all of the above, and reasons. As with everything they despise, they want to ban it, outlaw it, forbid it, demolish it, and destroy it. For your own good, of course.

The senile cardboard cutout once known as former vice president Joe Biden says he doesn't want to ban fracking -- a sure-loser proposition in his birth state of Pennsylvania and a state he must win in November to have a chance of unseating Trump. Especially, as the coronavirus lockdown hoax passes, with the economy bouncing back sharply. But the ideological, sentimental crazies in his party (e.g. everybody else) don't want to hear talk like that. Over at Real Clear Markets, Steve Milloy has the story:

Fracking is a key issue in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan where hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs depend the largely state-governed process of producing oil from shale rock formations.

During the primary campaign, Biden flip-flopped back and forth on banning fracking, finally alighting on an intermediary position where he wouldn’t ban fracking outright but would act to limit it on federally-owned lands. After Biden had cemented the nomination, the firebrand [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez was named as a climate advisor and installed on the Democratic National Committee’s climate advisory panel.

In early June, the DNC Environment and Climate Crisis Council issued a report that called for “legislation permanently banning fracking and enhanced oil recovery and initiate a managed phaseout of existing operations.” The purpose of the report is to “recommend a sweeping set of policies for inclusion in the new four-year 2020 Democratic Party platform, which will be approved at the August convention.”

While it is not uncommon for presidential candidates and their party platforms to often diverge, is the fracking fracture between Biden and the Democratic Council more significant? Of course it is.

Read Milloy's piece in its entirety, which goes on to argue that the feeble, demented Biden will be a pushover for the radicals. But that gives Trump an opening, not only in places like Pennsylvania (the keystone to winning the election; if Trump loses Penn., it's over), but also Ohio, Michigan, Indiana -- all of which Trump won in 2016. The big prize of New York State, even in its declining dotage, could also be put into play. Thug governor Andrew Cuomo has banned it in his state, but long-suffering western New York and the Southern Tier would welcome it. Biden may think he's got NYS in the bag, but even a strong feint by the Trump campaign in the direction of Rochester, Buffalo, and Elmira could force Biden to play defense.

Biden may deny he would ban fracking. But the question for voters should be, would it really be up to him? Panicked Democrats are now trying to back away from the DNC report calling for the fracking ban. A “senior Democrat familiar with the DNC’s workings” said to Reuters of the recommended fracking ban, “It’s a nonstarter.” About the Ocasio-Cortez-led DNC climate panel, the understandably anonymous source said, “Nobody takes them seriously.”

That will be disconcerting news to the likes of Ocasio-Cortez and all the Bernie Sanders supporters who, as it is, already have to hold their noses and vote for Biden.

If he cares about his country at all, Biden has a chance to put down the AOC rebellion and do the right thing. But of course he won't.

Hand Over the Solar Tax Credits, Or the Economy Gets It

Yesterday Michael Walsh  discussed the pressing concern among western civilization's current cultural elite -- the Twitterati (God help us). The Blue Checkmarks (long may they reign) are deeply concerned that the ongoing coronavirus freak-out is distracting us from the real civilizational catastrophe -- Anthropogenic Climate Change.

They must be greatly relieved, then, that Nancy Pelosi (D-Twitter), has come back from her little vacation to Hawaii tanned, rested, and ready to seize the reins. Before her arrival, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer confidently reported that negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over a nearly $2 trillion emergency relief bill were going well, and it would likely be passed on Monday. When asked about that comment, Pelosi replied ominously "Oh, I don’t know about Monday." She then unveiled a 1,400 page House bill which seeks to spend up to $2 trillion on really pressing pandemic related concerns such as:

It must be nice to be so certain that the media will carry water for you that you can pull this crap in a crisis. Of course, she's not wrong. Before Sunday was over, the New York Times had changed its initial headline about the Democrats' filibustering the bill the original bill (not Pelosi's) from "Democrats Block Action on $1.8 Trillion Stimulus" to "Partisan Divide Threatens Deal on Rescue Bill." Damn partisans.... whoever they are.

Climate specific items in the Pelosi bill include:

The focus on airlines is particularly underhanded, since that industry  has been especially hard hit. And yet, even just the requirement that they fully offset their carbon emissions will make firing employees and attempting to weather the storm a better bet for several airlines than accepting a bailout now.

America isn't the only place where the activist crowd are dictating the response of politicians. In Canada, Justin Trudeau's Liberal government unveiled new emergency legislation which grants the prime minister broad, unilateral authority to, among other things, bail out companies as he sees fit (uh, didn't they just have a major scandal which would call into question Trudeau's judgement on exactly this score?) and set taxation levels for the next 21 months (I wonder if that power might, at some point, be used as part of the ongoing battle over carbon taxes there). But at least if you squint, you see a justification for those measures, if not their extent (and anyway the Liberals are already beginning to back down from them). What Pelosi is attempting is much more cynical and shameless.

Though it doesn't roll off the tongue like Rahm Emanuel's "Never let a serious crisis to go to waste" in 2008, Democratic Whip James Clyburn's statement that this really is “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision” is an excellent description of what his party is doing. Thus far the Republicans aren't giving in --  Mitch McConnell was clearly pissed on the floor of the Senate:

The Democrats won't let us fund hospitals or save small businesses unless they get to dust off the Green New Deal! .... They're filibustering hospital funding and more masks because they want to argue with the airlines over their Carbon Footprint?! I'd like to see Senate Democrats tell small business employees in their states who are literally being laid off every day that they are filibustering relief that will keep people on the payroll because Democrat special interest friends want to squeeze employers while they're vulnerable.

And President Trump has sounded similar notes on Twitter:

Hopefully the GOP will stick to their guns, get the best possible deal through that they can, and we can begin the process of getting back on track after this insane historical moment.